A new roadside testing device called ‘Drugwipe’ will soon be used to help police officers catch offending drivers, as part of a crackdown on drug driving.

Previously, drivers suspected of drug driving would have to be taken to a police station for blood tests if they failed a roadside vision test, but the new device will allow police officers to test motorists when they are stopped for traces of cannabis and cocaine using a person’s saliva. A result is delivered within minutes and if positive, there will be a follow up blood test at a police station.

The number of drug driving convictions is expected to rise significantly following the introduction of roadside testing.

During 2009 - 2010 only 489 field impairment tests were carried out, yet it is estimated that as many as 200 people are killed every year as a result of drug driving.

A new drug driving law will come into force on 02 March this year which will make it an offence to be over the specified limits for an individual drug while driving. The penalties for drug driving are a minimum 12 month driving ban, a criminal record and a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison.

Helen Williams, a senior road accident solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Bristol office said: “Successfully convicting drug drivers has proved difficult for police forces over the years simply due to the lack of roadside testing capabilities.

“Being under the influence of drugs can seriously impair a driver’s judgement and ability to control a vehicle, and the consequences can prove devastating for the driver, any passengers and other road users.

“Roadside drug testing will raise awareness and should increase prosecutions, but there is still much more that could be done to hammer home the seriousness of this offence. Drug driving needs to be seen as being as dangerous and as socially unacceptable as drink driving if there is to be a genuine reduction in the number of offenders.”