Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jun 2001
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Marcello Mega


ROADSIDE tests are to be introduced by police forces throughout
Scotland to catch the growing number of erratic and dangerous drivers
under the influence of drugs.

Suspects will be asked to perform tasks to test their motor skills.
These include standing on one leg for 30 seconds and walking nine
paces heel-to-toe in a straight line.

The tests were introduced in Strathclyde on June 1 and will be adopted
by Scotland's other seven police forces as soon as officers can be
trained to conduct five "field impairment tests". These also include
examining eyes, because pupil can be affected by drugs, asking drivers
to touch the tips of their noses slowly with their index fingers and a
Romberg test - tilting the head back with eyes closed and estimating a
period of 30 seconds.

Inspector Paul Fleming of Strathclyde police, who researched
drug-driving detection methods for the Association of Chief Police
Officers Scotland (Acpos), said the tests would take about 10 minutes
to perform.

A driver suspected of having used alcohol will be breathalysed, but if
drug use is evident drivers will be arrested and taken to the nearest
police station, where they will be asked to take a blood or urine test.

The introduction of the tests reflects growing concern at the rising
number of drug-related road accidents. Over the past 10 years, the
number of road deaths in which drugs were a factor rose from 5% to
16%. Almost one in five drivers killed in road accidents had been
taking drugs.

Three years ago, Strathclyde was one of four British forces to pilot
roadside drug tests using Drugwipe, a device that tests forehead
perspiration for traces of narcotics. It proved effective only when
significant quantities of just four drugs had been taken, and was not

The motor skills tests, which are already used in England and Wales,
have been commonplace in America since the 1970s. They are considered
effective in detecting cannabis, opiates (including heroin),
stimulants (including cocaine) and hallucinogens (including LSD). They
can also detect prescription drugs such as Valium and solvent abuse.

Isobel Brydie, co-chairman of the Scottish Campaign Against
Irresponsible Drivers, said the tests were "better than nothing" - but
efforts to develop the drug equivalent of an alcohol breathalyser
should be stepped up.

oPolice forces across Britain aim to triple the number of people
caught speeding, fining at least 3m motorists every year.

Most of the 43 police forces are submitting plans to the government
next month that would allow them to keep most speeding fines.

At the moment 1m motorists are stopped each year for speeding.
Offenders usually get three penalty points on their licences and ?60
fines, which go to the Treasury. From next month, however, police
forces can keep money from speed camera fines provided they use it to
buy or run more of the devices. Some forces, such as Thames Valley,
have also set traffic officers targets for the number of fines they

Senior police officers calculate that the average ?60 fine on each of
the 3m victims would generate enough money to install at least 9,000
more speed cameras around Britain. About 4,500 fixed cameras are
already in use.
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