Drug-driving almost as common as drink-driving in Suffolk, ‘staggering’ police data shows

Breathalyzer breath test checking the alcohol level of a protential drink driver.
Breath alcohol te

Breathalyzer breath test checking the alcohol level of a protential drink driver. Breath alcohol testers used by Suffolk Police. - Credit: Simon Parker

Drug-driving is an “emerging problem” in Suffolk and could become worse than drink-driving, a police inspector last night warned.

One in four motorists tested by ‘drugalyser’ roadside police kits had drugs in their system between April 2017 and December 2017, an average of 49 a month, Suffolk Constabulary data shows.

In December, the proportion rose to one in three: 67 out of 194 motorists failed drug tests during Suffolk police’s annual Christmas drink and drug campaign.

Inspector Chris Hinitt, of the Suffolk and Norfolk roads policing unit, said a “hardcore” group of people in their mid-20s and 30s are the main culprits, usually caught with cannabis or cocaine.

He said: “I was quite staggered when they told me, and I couldn’t believe it to start with, that one in four people we tested were positive. These were people involved in accidents, or we have got information they’re using drugs, or they showed signs of it.

“It is an emerging problem. In my personal opinion, it could be a social thing. Cannabis use certainly has become more prevalent over the years. It is a social norm for a lot of people. It has always been there but we are now better able to detect it.

“They think if I only have one drink, I’ll be okay, and if I have one joint, I’ll be okay. Clearly not.”

The ‘drugalyser’ kits came into force with new laws in a 2015 crackdown. Insp Hinitt said police powers to catch drug and drink drivers were never stronger.

Inspector Chris Hinitt, of the Suffolk and Norfolk roads policing unit. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULAR

Inspector Chris Hinitt, of the Suffolk and Norfolk roads policing unit. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY - Credit: Archant

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In the Christmas campaign, from December 1 to January 1, an extra 422 motorists were breath-tested this year, from 1,329 to 1,751.There were almost as many drug-driving arrests as drink-driving: 67 compared to 70, closing the gap.

Asked if drug-driving is now worse than drink-driving, Insp Hinitt said: “The percentage of people who we tested for drink-driving was 4%, and for drug-driving it was 34%. That says it itself.

“There have been lots of drink-driving campaigns over the years but perhaps public awareness for drug-driving isn’t as high. The message is starting to come out now but we are a little bit behind because it is a newer thing.

“But anyone who drink or drug drives is, I think, an absolute idiot, and we will catch you.”

In contrast, Norfolk Constabulary breath-tested around half the amount of motorists (947) in the Christmas campaign but 8.6% were over the alcohol limit.

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