The government has officially approved the use of the first mobile drug-testing device on drivers suspected of being under the influence of illegal substances.
Known as Drugwipe, the portable device is similar to a breathalyser and can detect the presence of drugs like cannabis and cocaine by analysing a small sample of a driver’s saliva.
The results are then available within eight minutes and are indicated by the appearance of lines on the newly-approved device, which is similar to a pregnancy test.
If the Drugwipe device displays a positive reading, police will then take the driver to the police station for a blood sample, which will then be used in any subsequent prosecution.
Policing Minister Mike Penning, who announced that the device would enter use at a road policing conference, said: “Drug drivers are a deadly menace and must be stopped.
“Those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent pedestrians, motorists and their passengers.”
New laws in March
The Drugwipe will be currently used to enforce existing laws, and will also be used when new drug driving offences come into force in March this year.
A set of new laws will officially set legal limits for eight of the most common illegal drugs, which will include cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, with the limits due to be extremely low.
Penalties under the new offence will include a 12 month disqualification for drivers caught on drugs while behind the wheel of their cars, plus a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “Motorists can now be confident that the police will have the right equipment and know how to use it.
“Anyone foolish enough to drive drugged will also now know that the chances of being caught have now much increased.”
Edmund King, president of the AA, added: “To tackle this needless waste of life, the police need to be able to test drivers accurately for drugs and we need tough legislation in place to prosecute those who are found to be drug-driving.”
Many carmakers and experts are also making inroads in developing new technologies to stop impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, including a new steering wheel that detects alcohol.
Ford has also developed new technology that can detect when drivers are ill and impaired, and can even detect an impending heart attack which it plans to introduce by 2020.