In a statement made last year, the State of Victoria's Police Inspector, Martin Boorman noted, "In Australia, the use of roadside drug testing technology has proved extremely successful and has certainly helped to make our roads safer. Roadside drug testing, much like the roadside alcohol screening test, acts as a deterrent, but also provides the police with a quick and effective means to help catch those people who drive while using illegal substances. This technology, when used in conjunction with a widespread educational campaign, has and continues to be extremely successful."
Today, no such programmes exist in the UK. According to Iain Forcer, Concateno's drug-driving spokesperson, "Police in the UK are not allowed to use these devices that can quickly test drivers for drug use. Instead, they are required to carry out a lengthy Field Impairment Test which can take up to 30 minutes to complete, and few police officers are qualified to carry out these FIT assessments."
Current UK law focuses on impairment. For alcohol, impairment can be easily assessed, as a legal limit is in place for every driver. For drugs, on the other hand, such limits are unknown. "We believe that it is time to update the law to make it an offence for a driver simply to have a drug in their system known to cause impairment," says Forcer. "Roadside testing devices incorporate cut-off levels to avoid registering false positives through passive smoking or contamination and will enable police to determine if individuals are driving under the influence of drugs quickly."
Ironically, the police are already using these testing devices in over 170 police stations in England and Wales as part of their Drug Intervention Programmes. In 2010, nearly a quarter of a million drug tests were performed on individuals arrested for burglaries and thefts.
Lillian Groves' family argues that now, more than ever, is the time t
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