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Roadside drugs testing comes into force

By Lorna Thompson

MOTORISTS face the possibility of roadside drug tests as new laws take effect from today.

Scotland has toughened up its stance on drug driving with the strict new drug-drive limits. Police can now carry out roadside tests – using mouth swabs – for any motorist they suspect of drug driving, or who has been involved in a collision or stopped for a traffic offence. If the test is positive, drivers will be arrested.

People are 10 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a road crash when driving after taking cocaine. After taking cannabis this risk increases three-fold. Combining drugs or taking drugs alongside alcohol multiplies a person's risk of being in a crash.

The new law makes it easier to hold drug drivers to account as there is now no requirement to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner.

Chief Inspector Simon Bradshaw, area commander for road policing North, said: "Officers across the north and north-east of Scotland work tirelessly on a daily basis to make our roads safer and I very much welcome the new Section 5A legislation which provides additional new powers to detect drug drivers through the use of roadside screening devices.

Constable Stewart Logan with one of the Drugswipe testing kits as new drug-driving laws are introduced. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography.
Constable Stewart Logan with one of the Drugswipe testing kits as new drug-driving laws are introduced. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography.

"This will have a positive impact on our ability to stop this type of illegal driving behaviour and improve road safety across all our communities."

A drug-driving conviction is both a criminal and driving offence. Upon conviction drivers will receive a minimum 12-month driving ban, three to 11 penalty points on their licence, a criminal record, up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to a £5,000.

Drugs can stay in a user’s system for hours and even days after consumption. Some heavy users will always have drugs in their system.

The new law takes a zero-tolerance approach to the eight drugs most associated with illegal use, including cannabis, heroin and cocaine. Drugs associated with medical use have limits based on impairment and road safety.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said: "Driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs is simply not acceptable. The consequences of causing a collision while under the influence can be devastating.

"I am grateful to Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for their hard work to prepare for the new laws coming into force.

"Alongside our stringent drink-driving limits, these new curbs will ensure Scotland’s law enforcement agencies have the most robust powers in the UK to tackle impaired and unsafe driving in order to keep people safe."

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