Introduction of drugalyser won’t have expected impact unless key issues are addressed

The drugalyser could make a disastrous start to combating irresponsible and dangerous driving unless key issues are sorted out right now, claims specialist motoring lawyer Oliver Gardner.

The drugalysers, arriving in police stations this month, are expected to significantly ratchet up pressure on motorists who drive under the influence of drugs.

In 2008 only 253 drivers were convicted of drug driving in Britain, compared with 73,000 for drink driving. Yet, a EU study in Glasgow in 2005 found 11% of drivers stopped were drug users.

The further role out of mobile devices by the end of the year is expected to significantly add to prosecutions.

Gardner, managing partner of motoring law practice Howards Solicitors urges a closer look: “We all welcome improvements to safer driving. But unless the new initiative addresses key issues it could encounter significant setbacks.”

The need for extra training and guidance for the police and courts, the cost of prosecutions at a time of cuts in police manpower and a reduction in court time are just a few of the concerns raised.

Gardner highlights another potential bone of contention: “Alcohol, whether in wine, beer or spirits, will have the same effect, it can be measured and a limit agreed.

The same cannot be said for drugs, all of which have very different effects whether taken alone or in combination. Furthermore, a driver could have traces of banned substances and not be adversely affected in their ability to control a vehicle.”
It remains to be seem how drugalysers differentiate between types of drugs, quantities and length of time in a person’s system?”

Gardner concludes: “We could easily have 30,000 or 40,000 annual prosecutions for drug driving and if a high percentage are contested, especially as this is a new law, then we could see chaos, including mounting costs and delays in the courts.”

“The Government has to think through the significant costs of implementation and prosecution against the return of how much safer Britain’s roads will be. There needs to be some balance. I am not sure we have seen evidence of that as yet.”

Further Comment
Oliver Gardner is managing partner of Howards Solicitors, a specialist motoring law practice. Howards also offers legal advice for professional drivers, such as taxi licensing issues.

Oliver is available for comment on motoring law issues – please feel free to use any quotes stated in the release for articles.

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