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Crackdown on drink and drug driving

21 March 2011

RoadSafe welcomes the package of measures to tackle drink and drug driving announced by UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.

The measures were announced in the Government's response to the independent report on drink and drug driving in Great Britain commissioned by the previous Government from Sir Peter North in December 2009. The report was submitted to Ministers in May 2010 and published on 16 June 2010. It is also a response to the report of the Transport Select Committee, 'Drink and Drug Driving Law', which was published on 2 December 2010 following its inquiry into Sir Peter's main recommendations.

They include improved testing equipment to detect drink and drug drivers and key changes made to streamline enforcement of both offences.

RoadSafe welcomes the thrust of this approach which targets those who are the most dangerous, but urges all drivers to remember that any alcohol puts them and others at risk – the safest approach is not to drink and drive at all. It also welcomes the introduction of preliminary drug-testing equipment - initially for use in police stations, and at the roadside as soon as possible.

The full response to the North Report, which also includes the Department for Transport's response to the Transport Select Committee’s report on the same subject, is available here.

The announcement confirms that The Government will:

On alcohol:

• revoke the right for people whose evidential breath test result is less than 40% over the limit to opt for a blood test (the ‘statutory option’). The breath testing equipment used in police stations is now very accurate and technically sophisticated so a blood sample is not needed to confirm the breath test. The need to organise a blood sample can mean that drivers who were over the limit when breath tested have fallen below the limit by the time their blood sample is taken – removing the statutory option will eliminate this loophole.

• introduce a more robust drink drive rehabilitation scheme, so that we can require those drink drivers who are substantially in excess of the limit to take remedial training and a linked driving assessment before recovering their licence.

• approve portable evidential breath testing equipment for the police – this will speed up the testing process and free up police time.

• close a loophole used by high risk offenders to delay their medical examinations.

• streamline the procedure for testing drink drivers in hospital.

On drug driving the Government will:

• approve preliminary drug-testing equipment - initially for use in police stations, and at the roadside as soon as possible. The Home Office is currently testing six drug-testing devices and hopes to be able to take decisions on type-approval by the end of June.

• allow custody nurses to advise the police whether or not a suspected driver has a condition that may be due to a drug. This will remove the need to call out police doctors and so speed up the testing process – ensuring that drug drivers do not escape punishment because a doctor is not available and also freeing up police time.

• examine the case for a new specific drug driving offence – alongside the existing one – which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis where a specified drug has been detected.

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