Ipswich: Safety campaigner’s call to end drug-drive menace

IPSWICH: A road safety campaigner whose sister was one of two women killed by a drunken motorist with drugs in his system, today called for an accurate test to catch drug-drivers.

Michelle Luetchford’s plea has also been backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

It follows the findings of a committee of MPs who believe drug-driving motorists have little chance of being caught.

Mrs Luetchford’s sister Emma Harold, 26, was killed along with her friend Kate Wasyluk, 25, when Scott Nicholls lost control of his speeding car and ploughed into them near St Clement’s Hospital in Foxhall Road, Ipswich.

Mrs Luetchford’s other sister Rebecca, 25, survived, but sustained life-changing injuries during the collision, which occurred as the three women we walking home from a night out in February 2009.

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Nicholls, of Ipswich, was nearly twice the drink-drive limit at the time and had traces of ecstasy in his blood. He had also taken heroin the day before. The 20-year-old was sentenced to eight years in detention after admitting death by dangerous driving.

Mrs Luetchford, of Tomline Road, Ipswich, said: “I think there are an awful lot of people who drive while on drugs, but don’t actually get caught unless they break another law or they are seen driving erratically.

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“I would definitely like to see a test for drug-drivers that the police could use at the roadside.”

An ACPO spokeswoman said: “Research suggests that one in five drivers killed in road accidents may have had an impairing drug in their system.

“The introduction of devices in police stations will simplify the procedure for dealing with drug drivers and enable police forces to bring more successful prosecutions to court.

“This is only a part of a package of measures that we have been urging ministers to introduce for a number of years.”

Figures in a report commissioned for the Department of Transport show only 168 drug-drivers were prosecuted in Britain in a year, despite drugs playing a role in 56 fatal accidents in 2008.

The Transport Select Committee stated: “At the moment, people assume – quite correctly – that they can take drugs and drive a vehicle with little chance of being caught and convicted.”

At present there is no device accurate enough for police to use at the roadside to detect drug-driving.

In Suffolk police made 30 arrests on suspicion of drug driving in 2009/10 leading to 16 people being charged.

During this financial year 20 arrests have been made, with eight drivers charged and another three on police bail.

Chief Inspector Ady Dawson, of Suffolk’s roads policing unit said: “Drug-driving is totally unacceptable and is a serious crime.

“My road policing officers work tirelessly to tackle the problem all-year round.

“Like drink-driving, drug-driving changes the lives of the people who are selfish or stupid enough to drive when they are not fit to do so. A conviction has the potential to ruin your life.”

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