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Drug-driving law snares two people a day in first nine days after new roadside testing kits come into force

Two drug-drivers a day were caught in the first nine days of a crackdown by police using ‘drugalysers’.

Preliminary data from police and the Department for Transport shows 19 people were arrested for drug-driving offences after new drug limits – and roadside testing kits – came into force on March 2.

The majority of those arrested were under 30 and male. Seventeen cases involved cannabis and the remaining two cocaine. 

Most prolific were Sussex police who arrested eight drivers, all for cannabis use.

Other forces which made arrests include Greater Manchester, Suffolk, the Metropolitan Police and South Yorkshire.

Inspector Stewart Goodwin, of Surrey and Sussex roads policing unit said: ‘Eight men have been arrested in the first week after the introduction of new drug-driving legislation.

‘Each of the men was stopped and tested using new roadside equipment that indicates whether a motorist has taken cannabis or cocaine, using a swab from inside the driver’s mouth’.

‘The fact that we have made so many arrests because of the new legislation and equipment in just a week shows how much of difference the change in the law will make.'

Under the new system, which covers both illegal and prescription drugs, police do not need to prove a motorist is unfit to drive – just that they have an illegal level of drugs in their system. 

Motorists convicted of drug-driving will get a minimum one year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, up to a year in prison and a criminal record. 

The offence will also show up on their driving licence. 

Inspector Goodwin said: ‘People who take drugs and get behind the wheel can have slower reaction times, struggle to concentrate and can behave more erratically on the roads, putting both themselves and other people in danger.

‘We will not tolerate drug-driving and would urge anyone who thinks they know someone who is driving after taking drugs to contact us urgently so that we can act.’

The new drug-drive laws – covering both illegal and prescription drugs and enforced by new roadside ‘drugalysers’ devices or traditional roadside impairment tests – came into force on May 2 as part of a new offence created by the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years. 

The law sets limits at very low levels for eight illegal and eight prescription drugs, including those for insomnia, severe pain and anxiety. The limits set for these drugs exceed normal prescribed doses.