Police have reported a surge in the number drug-driving arrests, since the introduction of a new drug drive law and roadside drug tests in March last year.

According to the Department for Transport, Cheshire police reported that between March 2015 and January 2016, a total of 530 suspected drug drivers were arrested, an increase of 800 percent from the 70 arrests during the previous year. The Ministry of Justice is set to reveal the data for all regional police forces later this year.

Provisional figures for England and Wales suggest that during the 2015 Christmas drink and drug drive campaign, there were 1,888 drug screening tests carried out, of which almost half produced a positive result.

Under new drug driving legislation, introduced in March 2015, it is illegal to drive with any of 17 illegal and prescription drugs over a specified limit. Previously, police had to demonstrate that a driver was impaired by drugs in order to succeed in a prosecution of a driver.

Roadside swab tests, made available in 2015, can identify whether a driver is under the influence of cocaine and cannabis. Further tests can be carried out at a police station to establish whether drivers are under the influence of any one of 17 specified drugs.

David Robinson, a specialist road traffic accident solicitor in Thompsons Solicitors’ Newcastle office, said: “While the rise in drug driving arrests during the last year is welcome news, it is an issue that has been largely overlooked by the government until very recently.

“Driving under the influence of drugs is incredibly dangerous and puts lives at risk, yet it lacks the high-profile condemnation associated with drink driving. The government must ensure awareness campaigns and punishments for drug drivers match those associated with drink driving if it is to be seen as something that is not tolerated by the public.

“Deaths on UK roads are on the rise and it is essential police forces are properly resourced to catch and apprehend reckless drivers who flout the law, often causing cause serious and fatal road traffic collisions.”