Cannabis-detecting kit to help counter drug-drive menace

DRUG-DRIVERS face more rigorous tests after a kit for detecting cannabis was approved for use in police stations across the UK, the Home Office said.

A positive saliva test with the new device means officers will no longer have to call a doctor before asking for a blood sample if they suspect a driver of being on drugs.

The testing kit, which is able to detect THC, the active ingredient in cannabis is now available to police forces, it was announced yesterday.

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It has been approved after experts at the Home Office’s centre for applied science and technology (CAST) carried out extensive tests on its effectiveness.

Work is ongoing at CAST testing equipment capable of accurately identifying other illegal substances.

The saliva testing kits are being introduced under a wider crackdown, which will see drug driving become a specific offence.

Offenders will face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000 as well as an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.

A total of 644 accidents were caused by drug-drivers using both illegal and medicinal substances, including 49 deaths, according to the most recent Department for Transport figures, from 2011..

The number of 17 to 24-year-olds who drive after taking drugs has almost doubled according to a recent survey carried out by the RAC.

It showed that the number of drug drivers in that age group had risen from five per cent to nine per cent in the 12 months up to May last year.

Policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green said: “Those who take drugs and go out on the roads are a menace to pedestrians, other motorists and themselves.

“This Government has pledged to clamp down on the harm drug drivers cause by giving the police new testing equipment and introducing a new drug driving law.

“The new testing kit is the first step in fulfilling that pledge. We are determined to ensure the police have access to new technology to ensure drug drivers are caught and punished.”

Motorists can already be punished for driving while impaired by drugs, but the new testing equipment will make it easier for the police to prove a case, the Home Office said.

A joint commitment was made by the Home Office and the Department for Transport to approve equipment for police to use in stations by the end of 2012.

The ongoing work on identifying new technology to aid the police in catching and punishing drug drivers includes moves towards equipment capable of being used at the roadside.

The testing kit device has been made by Northumberland firm Draeger.