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Drug-drive arrests soar in "sea change" for roads policing

PUBLISHED: 15:28 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 19 July 2019

Norfolk police start their summer drink drive campaign stopping motorists on the Newmarket Road. PC Jason Ellis arrests a driver for failing a drugs test. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk police start their summer drink drive campaign stopping motorists on the Newmarket Road. PC Jason Ellis arrests a driver for failing a drugs test. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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The introduction of road-side drug testing has seen a "sea change" as arrests have soared.

Words of advice given to drivers in Necton and Swaffham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYWords of advice given to drivers in Necton and Swaffham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Over the last five years - since roads policing officers were first equipped with drug wipes - arrests for drug-driving have risen more than six times.

The new kit and legislation introducing limits for illegal and prescribed drugs came into force in June 2015.

Now police in Norfolk are seeing almost as many people arrested for drug-driving as drink-driving.

In last year's Christmas drink-drive campaign, more drug-drivers were caught for the first time.

And last year more than 600 people were arrested after failing a drug test.

Just four years earlier, just 37 were arrested in suspicion of drug-driving.

Acting inspector Alex Bucher, of the Norfolk and Suffolk roads and armed policing team, said there had been a "massive sea change".

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"The increase in drug driving is linked directly to our improved detecting since the introduction of the road-side drug wipes," he said.

"There was also legislation which brought in specified limits. That has made detection rates go up massively."

Limits for illegal drugs in blood samples and saliva swabs are set to allow for 'accidental exposure', and are exceptionally low.

"If you are over the limit you will be prosecuted," said A/Insp Bucher.

"Illegal drugs will impair your judgement and your reaction times will be slower, enhancing the risk of a collision.

"Our message will always be illegal drugs are illegal by nature and you should not be using them.

"When you have prescribed medication that is a different area, but if it tells you not to drive when using it you should avoid driving."

Police will always breathalyse a driver after a collision, and often roads police will be called to the scene to administer drug wipes, as not all officers carry them.

"It has become socially unacceptable," said A/Insp Bucher. "There is still undoubtedly are section of people who will be stopped. With drug driving we can now detect it.

"We have still got to make sure we are trying to raise awareness, and the likelihood of you being caught and detained is much higher than it was six years ago."

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