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Police are Being Hampered

Monday, December 29th, 2008 Police are Being Hampered

According to Dan Whitworth - Newsbeat technology reporter (17 12 08). Lives are being put at risk because of delays in getting roadside drug testing kits to police. That’s according to road safety campaigners.

Officers are finding themselves checking drivers by getting them to do things like stand on one leg and walk in a straight line, which seems somewhat basic and possibly inconclusive.

Both PC’s Gareth James and Robbie Burns regularly patrol the roads around Chester looking for drink or drug-drivers and accompanied by a newsbeat reporter for the night.

Quite soon they find a man driving without any lights on. He’s on his way home and is suspected of taking drugs.

The alleged offender has to take a Field Impairment Test (FIT), which consists of examining his eyes and testing things like his balance and co-ordination. This time he was let go.

But wait for it, things are not a simple according to PC Robbie Burns. He says, “One of the worst examples that we dealt with was a delivery van that was totally chopped in half.”

He further adds “The driver was killed instantly. We later found out that the offending driver actually had amphetamines and cannabis in his system.”

The victim Ron Birch was a father of two. His wife Fiona says the impact on their family was horrendous.

Notably and worthy of discussion is the fact that FIT is simply not ready, though this may be frustrating.

What is acutely important is the law isn’t about if drivers have drugs in their system.

The drug testing kit is already being used in some EU countries It’s about whether or not those drugs impair their ability to drive.

The Department of Transport has launched a review into whether the law needs changing.

Hitherto the Department Of Transport has launched a review into whether the law does require changing.

According to Graham Silvers works for a British company, TrichoTech Ltd, that makes and designs drug testing kits already being used in some European countries like Italy and Spain. “Very simple to use. We get a saliva sample, placed into the handheld computer,” he explained.

“That’s analysed and within five minutes you get a result for six drugs.”

The Home Office says it’s still working on getting the technology right.

One thing to take into consideration is that figures reveal almost 20 per cent of drivers involved in fatal accidents have traces of illegal substances in their system, while anecdotal evidence suggests that up to one in five youths has got behind the wheel under the influence of drugs.

The RAC Foundation said its research had found that a third of motorists who had taken drugs would still pass the tests, which assess mental and physical coordination, because the police were unable to spot any impairment.

Sheila Rainger, RAC head of campaigns, called on the Government to fast-track roadside testing which instantly detects the presence of drugs with a swab, as drug-driving had become a serious issue. “We’re in the position with drug-driving now that we were in with drink-driving in the 1950s and 1960s,” she said.

“Because of all the publicity, young people now see drink-driving as wrong, but they don’t think there is a problem with drug-driving. It is a growing problem that the police need to challenge.”

Furthermore, Last year, a RAC survey of young motorists found that one in five took to the road after using drugs. It concluded that young people were twice as likely to be driven by someone high on drugs as someone who was over the drink-driving limit.

Finally according to Chief Constable Steve Green, of Nottinghamshire Police, argues that his force was “not willing to tolerate this type of offending” and would “crack down heavily” during its summer campaign.

Though one can easily argue that it is good to be tough on crime but question the reality and feasibility at this stage.

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