Why is drug-driving rising so fast in Essex?
For many years, a rise in drink-driving was the scourge of police and other road users. But now, while drink-driving is still a major problem which traffic officers are tackling, statistics show it seems to be rapidly being overtaken by drug-driving.
Shocking statistics from Essex Police showed that since April 2018, 1,285 drug-drivers have been caught on the county’s roads - a rise of 70% on the previous year.
Although more people - 1,386 - were caught drink-driving in that time, the rise of drug-driving is far more rapid, with the drink-driving numbers representing a 12% rise on the previous year.
March 2019 was also the third month in a row that drug-driving has exceeded drink-driving, with 164 arrested for drug-driving compared to 117 drink-drivers.
In the past year, 353 motorists have also failed to provide a drink or drug specimen when asked - a rise of 58% on the previous 12 months.
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The figures led the Essex Roads Policing Team to hold a poll on Twitter asking whether the rise in drug-driving offences meant the force should be able to claim back the £368 it costs to analyse an offender’s blood sample.
Of the approximately 1,200 people who have voted so far, 96% agreed that the offender should be made to pay for the cost of analysing their own blood sample.
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Acting Chief Inspector Sharn Taylor, head of roads policing, said there was a link between drug-driving and other forms of crime.
“A study we carried out last year found half of drug drivers had been arrested before and a half of those arrested had been so in connection with serious climes including those linked to violence,” she said.
“This makes our work to tackle drug drivers even more important. It’s not just making our roads safer, but it’s helping to tackle and disrupt other forms of crime.”
She said the latest March figures showing the scale of the rise were “shocking” and a “real concern” for everyone.
She added: “Drug driving puts lives at risk. It’s reckless, it’s irresponsible and it’s totally unacceptable.
“I think there are also a lot of people who aren’t really aware of how drugs affect your ability to drive or how long they can stay in your system.
“If you drive with drugs in your system it impacts on your ability to react behind the wheel and that can be fatal. And we have had collisions were someone has died and drugs have been a factor.
“What these figures also show that if you’re drug driving, we WILL catch you and we WILL arrest you. If you’re convicted, you WILL lose your licence and that could mean you lose your job, your home, and even your family.
“We have more officers trained to use the drug wipes meaning we’ve got more opportunity to detect drug drivers and get them off the road.
“My officers are also carrying out targeted and proactive operations to catch people doing things like drug driving.
“Information from the public is also really important and we need anyone who has any information about someone they suspect is drug driving to call us.
“The easiest way to not get caught drug driving is to not do it at all. Our message is drive safe, drive sober.”