Drug drive arrests have soared by up to 800% in a year after the government introduced tough new laws to catch and convict offenders, according to initial figures from police forces.
A new easy-to-use roadside swab test which can catch drug offenders was introduced on 2 March last year (2015). To mark the first anniversary, the government is launching a new advertising campaign targeted at young men who are most likely to drug drive – to make it clear that if you drug drive, you’re more likely to be caught and convicted as a result of the roadside swab.
The roadside swab identifies drug drivers on the spot.
Provisional figures show that in Cheshire alone officers arrested eight times as many suspected drug drivers than in 2014, with over 530 from March 2015 to January 2016 – up from 70 in the whole of the previous year.
Police forces have been given an additional £1 million to train officers, purchase drug screening equipment and pay for samples to be analysed.
Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said: “Thanks to our tougher law, police are catching and convicting more dangerous drivers.
“The government will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with police as they work tirelessly to protect the public while recognising enforcement alone is not the answer. We need to educate and influence behaviour change which is why we are pushing on with our THINK! campaign, which has helped change attitudes towards drink-driving and ultimately save lives.”
Cheshire Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Cheshire Police’s figures speak for themselves. We have taken a no nonsense approach to using this new legislation as part of our wider work to target criminals who use our road networks.”
Under the new drug-driving laws once suspects are charged, 98% have been convicted – compared to 80% for the old offence.
During the Christmas 2015 drink and drug drive campaign, 1,888 drug screening tests were carried out in just one month across England and Wales, and nearly 50% were positive showing how well the police have been in targeting suspected offenders.
The drug drive law changes in England and Wales have made it illegal to drive with 17 controlled drugs above a specified limit in the blood. Motorists who get behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs face a criminal record, loss of their licence for at least a year and an unlimited fine. It remains an offence to drive while impaired, by any drug at any amount.
Drugs that can be tested for at the roadside are cannabis and cocaine, while the evidential laboratory test can identify all the drugs covered by the law including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin.
To mark the first anniversary, THINK! is running a campaign with cinema, radio, and online videos to drive awareness showing that if you drug drive, you’re more likely to be caught and convicted as a result of the roadside swab.
This will be complemented by digital display, social media and displays in pub and club washrooms to reach young men when they are planning, or are on, a night out.