Police forces are a step closer to having equipment to test motorists suspected of drug driving, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire announced today.
The Home Office has produced the specification for a new police station-based drug screening device. The document sets out what the device will do and the standards it must meet.
Manufacturers will now submit devices to the Home Office for testing. If the specifications are met, a device could then be approved by the Home Secretary for use by police.
Once a screening device is approved, officers will be able to use it to test if a person has specific levels of a drug in their system and then take a blood sample if the device gives a positive reading.
This will enable suspects to be dealt with quicker, cutting bureaucracy and allowing officers to get back to frontline duties. Currently, a medical examiner must be called out to assess if suspects are impaired because of drugs and authorise a blood sample.
Danger on the road
Crime prevention minister James Brokenshire said: ‘Motorists under the influence of drugs are a danger on the road. We are determined that police have the highest quality devices to help identify them. This specification is a big step towards that goal.
‘Police already have robust powers to test drivers for signs of impairment and this device will make it easier for them to identify the reckless drivers who are putting lives at risk.’
Road safety minister Mike Penning said: ‘Drug drivers show a flagrant disregard for the law and put the lives of responsible motorists at risk. This announcement means that we are a step closer to making sure that the Police have the equipment they need to tackle this selfish minority more effectively and make the roads safer for everyone.’
Evidence to support a prosecution for drug driving can only come from a blood specimen. Currently, an officer can only require a suspect to give a blood specimen if a medical practitioner has been called out and said that the person may be under the influence of drugs. A positive test on an approved drug screener means a blood specimen can be taken straight away without a medical practitioner’s involvement.
The approval process ensures testing equipment is effective and meets the operational needs of police. It also makes sure the results are not susceptible to legal challenge, leading to convictions being overturned.
The potential device will test for a range of drugs including cannabinoids, cocaine, amphetamines, methylamphetamine, methadone and opiates.
Alongside this, the government will continue working with manufacturers to investigate the feasibility of introducing portable drug screening devices which could be used to test drivers for drugs at the roadside.