Road side drug tests are revolutionising how traffic officers police Suffolk roads

Pc Andy Masterson checks motorists speeds on the A140 at Stonham Parva.

Pc Andy Masterson checks motorists speeds on the A140 at Stonham Parva.

Drug driving rates are set to reach a record high this Christmas thanks to a new tool which has revolutionised roads policing.

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The new road side drug tests, introduced in Suffolk in March when new laws came into effect, have helped officers detect more offences and take potentially dangerous drivers off our roads.

Inspector Julian Ditcham, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Operations unit, said: “This is the first Christmas we have had these tests available and we will have more drug drivers than in the past as a result, it is now much easier for us to detect.

“If someone commits a moving traffic offence or we suspect them of drug driving, we can take a saliva swab at the road side and the test gives us a negative or positive result.”

As with road side breathalysers, the tests are unable to give a specific reading so suspects are taken into custody where a blood test is taken to ascertain the exact level of each specific drug in their system and tell officers if they are over the legal limit.

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“Previously we relied on sobriety tests where we would ask people to put their finger on their nose or walk in a straight line, and it was down to us to prove that they were unfit to drive through drugs. There is now a set limit for cocaine, for heroin, for cannabis and for other drugs.”

Colleague Pc Andrew Masterson, who is one of eight members of the new casualty reduction team, added: “In all my time in the job, that piece of kit has revolutionised our work more than any other single item.”

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Describing a recent case where the drugs kit was used, he said: “We had a white van driver who we suspected of speeding, so we pulled him over and carried out a drug test which proved positive. It came back that he was over the limit for cocaine and cannabis, and it was 2.30pm in the afternoon.”

The first arrest in Suffolk using the new laws came on March 3, and in the first month alone there were more than 20 arrests for drug driving - a figure set to be eclipsed this month as the road policing team, and other colleagues from across the force, continue their month-long Christmas crackdown on drink and drug drivers.

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Running alongside the crackdown is our annual Name and Shame campaign, in which we vow to identify all of those prosecuted for drink or drug driving to raise further awareness of the dangers of getting behind the wheel while unfit.

Insp Ditcham said: “There has been a dramatic reduction in fatalities on our roads over the past 30 years, and that is down to enforcement, education and public campaigns.”

Inspector Julian Ditcham on patrol along the A14 checking for motoring offences.

Inspector Julian Ditcham on patrol along the A14 checking for motoring offences.

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The Drug Wipe kit used by Suffolk Constabulary.

The Drug Wipe kit used by Suffolk Constabulary.

Roadside drug test

Roadside drug test - Credit: Archant

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