Trial Success for Roadside Drug Tests!

Trial Success for Roadside Drug Tests!
Posted by FoM on August 01, 1999 at 13:45:46 PT
By David Harrison
Source: Electron Telegraph UK
MOTORISTS could face roadside tests for "drug-driving" following a huge rise in the number of deaths on the road involving drugs.
Six police forces have been using the tests in pilot schemes. Now a report from an influential group of police, doctors and road safety experts - to be published in the autumn - will urge the Government to introduce the tests nationally. The report will reveal that a growing number of drivers involved in fatal accidents are taking a "cocktail" of hard drugs.If the tests are approved, motorists who commit a traffic offence or drive erratically will first have to take the existing breathalyser test for drink-driving. If this proves negative but the police officer suspects that the driver may be under the influence of drugs, the motorist will be asked to undergo a series of five tests.These are:The straight line test: the driver walks nine steps along a straight line, turns and walks back. The eye test: a person's pupils normally dilate and contract in response to changes in light, but can react differently if drugs have been taken.The divided attention or Romburg test: the driver tips his head back, closes his eyes, and guesses when 30 seconds have elapsed. This is hard for people under the influence of drugs. Police will also look for signs of swaying.The one-leg test: the driver stands on one leg and counts for 30 seconds. The process is repeated for the other leg. Motorists affected by drugs often fall over during this test.The nose test: drivers stand, feet together, close their eyes and touch the end of their noses. Harder than it seems when under the influence of drugs.Drivers who fail the tests will be arrested and a police surgeon will assess whether they are "impaired" either by drugs or by a medical condition. Blood or urine samples will establish the presence of drugs in the body.A police spokesman from Strathclyde where tests are being extended, said: "The reaction from the public was good, but the tests were not always easy to carry out in pouring rain on the motorway at 2am. More research is needed."At present police have no powers to make drivers take any of the drugs-drive tests - unlike the breathalyser for drink-drivers, where refusing to take the test is an offence in itself. However, drivers who refuse can be arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired by drugs and then undergo similar tests by a police doctor. Driving while under the influence of drugs carries the same penalties as drink-driving. Police do not distinguish between medical or illegal drugs since the prime concern is road safety.The report, compiled by groups including the motoring organisation AA, the British Medical Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the parliamentary advisory council on road safety, is also expected to urge the Government to continue research into a "drugsalyser", a roadside device that would detect drugs in motorists' bodies and act as a deterrent.The report will call for urgent action because the number of drivers and passengers who have died in road accidents after taking drugs has risen from three per cent to 18 per cent of the total in the past 15 years. A survey by the car-leasing company Lex shows that 500,000 road-users regularly take cannabis, 250,000 take speed and 100,000 are regularly under the influence of ecstasy, cocaine or heroin.Police forces, backed by the Government, have already tested two drugs-detection tests. The first was a "sweat test" in which pads are wiped across the driver's forehead and the perspiration examined for the presence of specific drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin or amphetamines. The second test is a saliva check which can detect drugs in the body but cannot identify specific drugs.There is some concern that detection tests are unreliable, as many substances can show false positives. For example, poppy seeds used in bagels and cakes have been found to show a positive for morphine. It is also more difficult to fix "acceptable" levels of drugs than it is for alcohol, as the same drugs can affect people differently. The tests have been successfully used in America for two decades.Pubdate: August 1, 1999 Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1999
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Comment #1 posted by Pete Markham on August 02, 1999 at 01:37:11 PT:
Roadside Drug Tests in the UK
It is interesting in the light of Police wanting to do roadside drug tests that they and the police federation are at the same time trying to stop random drug testing of police. Bit of a double standard there eh?
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