The number of drivers caught with illegal drugs in their system was at an all-time high in 2015, according to new figures from the National Police Chiefs Council.
1,888 people were tested using roadside screening during December and 931 – almost half – were caught with illegal drugs in their system.
The major drug and drink drive campaign is the first since police were given new screening devices that allow 17 legal and illegal drugs to be tested for at the roadside.
Alice Bailey from road safety charity Brake said: “These drug drivers figures show just how much this law change was needed to help keep our roads safer and send a clear message to anyone driving after taking drugs that they will be caught.
“We see the devastating impact of crashes caused by someone on a night out who has taken drugs and drunk and then got behind the wheel without considering the possible deadly consequences of their selfish actions.”
The figures also revealed a higher number of drivers over the age of 25 caught over the drink drive limit than in the previous three years. A total of 3,297 tested positive, failed or refused to complete the test.
There was, however, a decline in the number of young drivers caught drink-driving, with 1,062 over the limit compared to 1,788 in the previous festive period.
Bailey added: “It’s very worrying that there has been an increase in the number of drivers aged 25 and over caught drink driving for a second year running, meaning too many are still don’t understand that any amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s ability and judgement.
“There is some slightly more encouraging news that fewer under 25’s have been caught drink driving but we must continue to press home the simple message that after drinking any alcohol or taking any drugs you are not fit to drive.”
Brake said ‘the continued use of a more targeted and intelligence-led approach by the police’ was a positive, but pointed out the fact ‘officers tested almost half as many people last Christmas as they did over the 2012 period’.
In other words, while the number of people over the legal limit of 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100ml of blood at the wheel is decreasing, so is the number of drink-drivers who are being taken off the road.
The government revised drug-driving laws in 2015 as part of a zero-tolerance approach designed to make it easier for police to catch and convict motorists, which included the introduction of roadside ‘drugalyser’ testing equipment. You can read what changed here.
Scotland lowered its drink-driving limit at the end of 2014. Safety campaigners welcomed the move and said it should be carried over to England and Wales, but critics have argued it would be a death blow to pubs. Motorists are unsure of the idea.