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Essex Police could use drug-driving kits
2:31pm Friday 11th January 2013 in News
DRUG driving test kits could issued to police officers in Essex.
The force is considering whether to order the kits, similar to the breathalyser already used to test alcohol levels.
The equipment will allow officers to collect a sample from drivers suspected of being under the influence of cannabis.
It means officers will not need to wait for a doctor to do a blood test on a suspect.
Initially the equipment will be available in police stations but the Home Office hopes to introduce a roadside kit.
Acting Chief Insp Steve Brewer, from the Stanway response unit, said research suggets driving under the influence of drugs could be more widespread than drink-driving.
He said: “It is not just illegal drugs because several prescription medicines can cause driving problems.
“It is difficult to say how big a problem it is because we have not had the kit readily available.
“The good thing about this kit is it would give us something which is much easier to use. It would more reliable and would definitely represent an improvement.
“In about 18 months time there may be roadside drug testing kits available but until then this would this could be an important addition to the equipment we can use.”
Mr Brewer has years of experience with road policing in Essex and recently attended a conference on behalf of Essex Police with the company whose drug testing equipment has been approved, Draegar.
At the moment officers have to call for a force medical examiner if they suspect drugs may be involved.
He can then take blood from the detainee.
The new devices would allow officers to take a saliva sample and test for traces of cannabis.
The devices were approved by the applied science and technology department at the Home Office.
A test for other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, is also being developed.
At least 49 deaths and 640 accidents were caused by drivers using both illegal and medicinal drugs in 2011.
The true figure is thought to be much higher, however, because of the difficulty in detecting whether a motorist has used drugs.
Driving under the influence of drugs is not an offence unless police can prove the driver’s judgment was impaired but Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to make drug-driving a crime.
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 spokesman for Essex Police confirmed the force is considering whether to order the new kit.