The UK government has announced that road-side drugalyzers will be introduced this year, and is considering a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body. But it’s yet to be proven that limits can be set for illegal substances above which a driver is deemed to be unfit to drive.
The IAM believes that the proven ability of impairment testing should not be forgotten in any rush to provide a technological solution to the drug driving issue. Unless drugalyzers can provide proof of impairment in situations where a cocktail of drugs and alcohol may have been taken, their main role will be as detectors of the presence of illegal substances. This may in itself be a useful function but not necessarily a road safety one.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said, “Any new equipment that will allow police to make quick and accurate decisions at the roadside or at the police station on drivers who are impaired by drugs is great. In this way traffic officers can get back out onto the frontline of roads policing, where their impact is highest.
“But the introduction of a drugalyzer type test, needs to be backed up by some measure of impairment. Without this, the test could simply catch those people who have used drugs at some point, but are not necessarily still impaired by them.
“Impairment as the key factor is also essential in tackling drivers who may have used over the counter or prescription drugs, which while legal, can have an equal impact on driving ability as illegal ones.”
So it all hangs on how to show impairment, so why not use the roadside tests which are used by law enforcement agents, such as walking a straight line?