Police carried out 88 roadside drug-driving tests – catching more than 40 people under the influence – in the first year a new roadside kit was made available.
The hand-held kit includes a mouth swab and can detect whether a driver has been under the influence of cocaine or cannabis while driving.
A positive reading gives the officer the power to arrest the driver on suspicion of driving with excess specified drugs in the blood and take them into a custody suite for blood testing to confirm they have the drugs in their system over the prescribed limit.
Nottinghamshire Police introduced the kits on New Year’s Day 2016 and has just released the first full calendar year’s worth of figures revealing their effectiveness.
Of the 88 tests carried out between 1 January and 31 December 2016, 31 tested positive for cannabis, six for cocaine, and five for both drugs.
One person refused to take the test and was arrested for failing to co-operate with a preliminary drugs test.
From January to date this year, a further 20 tests have been carried out, with one testing positive for cocaine, 10 for cannabis and four for both, taking the overall total so far to 57.
East Midlands Operational Support Service Chief Inspector Mark Garthwaite says the devices make it easier for officers to detect drug-driving, in a similar way that breathalysers do for drink-driving.
“It is now generally accepted by society that drink-driving is unacceptable and it should be no different for drug-driving,” said Chief Inspector Garthwaite.
“Taking drugs impairs people’s ability to drive and is incredibly dangerous for the driver, their passengers and any other road users who have the misfortune to encounter them on the roads.
“The kits are an important tool for officers in tackling drug-driving because they give an early indication at the roadside, meaning the driver can be required to take a blood test more quickly to confirm they have broken the law.
“They should act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of getting behind the wheel while under the influence because it is now easier to catch them in the act.”
Before the testing kits were available, officers needed a doctor or a health care professional to examine the driver to say whether they believed they had a condition which might be due to a drug – and only then could the driver be required to take a blood test.
This is still the procedure in cases where the drug taken is something other than cannabis or cocaine.
It is not only illicit drugs that can make drivers fall foul of the law as some prescription drugs can make people unfit to drive.
In October 2015, Thomas Burney was sentenced to eight years in prison at Nottingham Crown Court for killing a 19-year-old Bryony Hollands whilst driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine.
Bryony died after she was hit by a Mercedes being driven by Burney on Woodthorpe Drive, Woodthorpe on August 21 2015.
Burney also hit and seriously injured Bryony’s boyfriend, Ben Evans, 20, who was walking with her at the time of the crash.
He was later found to be over the drink-driving limit and told one person at the scene he had been taking cocaine.
Since the crash Bryony’s family have campaigned for stricter sentences for drink-drivers – calling for the maximum sentence of 14 years to be increased.