Over the past few years there has been a great deal of research conducted on the problem of UK motorists driving under the influence of drugs. Since the introduction of the breathalyzer, testing for alcohol is a fairly quick and accurate procedure, but drugs are a different matter.
Currently, when a motorist is stopped by police on suspicion of driving while impaired, the field impairment test (FIT) is standard practice; it usually involves standing on one foot and/or walking a straight line etc., and if the driver fails that test they get a breathalyzer. If they pass that, they’re more than likely to drive away without further ado.
Recent studies have revealed that more than 10% of drivers in the 17 to 24 age group admitted they had driven while under the influence of drugs, a considerable increase over the percentage four years ago. Road safety organisations have been lobbying for more effective drug testing, and now a plan is in the works to do some serious up-dating.
The government is setting up a panel to explore the options and try to come up with a feasible method of drug testing and make it available to police stations country-wise. The panel’s findings will be the basis for new legislation that would make driving under the influence of drugs prosecutable in the same way drink driving is now.
The saliva test, already in use by Australian police, is limited and relatively time-consuming. That test involves using different cellulose strips for different drugs; it takes a while and can’t cover every possibility anyway. New developments in testing devices will make it possible to detect even a slight amount of some drugs in just a few seconds, but that leaves other dilemmas.
There is no clearly defined ‘legal limit’ for the level of any specific drug in a driver’s system, and the differentiation between a ‘legal high’ from prescribed medicine and an ‘illegal high’ from anything else poses a huge complication for law-makers.