Roadside drug testing for drivers starts

01 March 2015

New drug drive legislation comes into force in England and Wales tomorrow, Monday 2 March, which will give police the additional power to undertake roadside drug testing.

Tests will be done by a mouth swab kit which will show up even the smallest trace of commonly-used illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine.

For those who are taking prescribed medication the advice remains to stay within the guidance of the prescription from their GP as the drug law remains unchanged. The law is designed to catch people who risk people’s lives by getting behind the wheel after taking drugs – not those taking legitimate medicines that don’t impair their ability to drive. If you are taking medicine as directed and your driving is not impaired, there is no need to worry. But if your prescription says that you should not drive with it, then you should not drive with it.

Jayne Willetts, the Police Federation’s roads policing lead, said: “The Police Federation of England and Wales welcomes the new legislation but we have concerns about what the police service will be able to deliver in real term having lost 17,000 officers in the last four years. Police officers throughout the country want to be able to deliver what the public want and deserve.

“There is already legislation in place for police officers to arrest on suspicion of driving whilst under the influence of drugs. This new law gives officers the power to test at the roadside but we are also concerned about public expectation.

“Of course our desire is to make the roads safer but the impact of cuts to the policing budget means that while a change in legislation is with good intent, its effectiveness depends on having the necessary equipment, training, and essentially police officers in place.

“We were notified in January that the law was changing and forces have had limited time to properly inform, train and equip officers to undertake roadside drug testing.

“Importantly, forces have been given no extra funding for the kits so have to work within their already constrained budgets. Public expectation is quite rightly high and while officers will do their utmost to deliver, they have to have the right kit, training and support to do so.”

Notes to Editor:

The penalties for drug-driving are the same as for drink-driving. A conviction could carry up to a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, a fine of up to £5000 or up to six months in prison – or both.