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DON'T BLOW IT!; A hard-line new approach aims to cut out the dangers of drug use on our roads, writes BILL CAVEN.

Byline: BILL CAVEN

POLICE forces across Scotland are gearing up to mount their biggestever crackdown on driving under the influence of drugs.

And drivers who give a positive test result face the risk of jail and a maximum fine of pounds 5000.

Until now many motorists have escaped detection because traffic police officers have not been adequately trained in drug detection.

However, over the last two years police forces in this country have devised and improved drug enforcement and impairment tests to increase possible detection rates.

Inspector Paul Fleming of Strathclyde Police explained that drug drivers are considered the same menaceonour roads as drink drivers.

He said: ``There is no difference between anyone caught and this is reflectedinthefactthatthepenalties are exactly the same.

``People should remember that it takes three weeks for some drugs to get out of your system.

``A great deal of time and investment has gone into improving detection techniques nationwide.

``Before, police officers found that in 80 per cent of cases the motorists returned positive samples for drugs.

``This has now increased to 96 per cent of all cases as a result of these improved techniques.''

MOTORISTS who are involved in an accident or are considered to be driving erratically will be invited to undertake a voluntary drug test.

Police officers have been trained to study the driver's behaviour to detect whether they suspect drugtaking may be involved.

They will then carry out a series of tests, known as the Romberg tests, designed to determine whether the motorist may be under the influence.

Drivers will have to tilt their head back for 30 seconds to check balance, stand on one leg and walk nine steps heelto-toe before turningaround. Theywill also be asked to touch the tip of their nose.

Police will then assess whether to take them to a police station where they will undergo an examination.

Both blood and urine samples will be taken and sent away for analysis.

Motorists who refuse to take part in the test run the risk of being arrested anyway if the officers consider the offence serious enough.

Over the next few weeks there will be a high-profile marketing campaign, funded by the Scottish Executive, to raise awareness of drug driving and testing.

It is accepted that the vast majority of motorists are totally ignorant of what the risks and punishment are.

Yet new research carried out for the Department of Transport found 18 percentofdriverskilledincrashes had illegal drugs in their systems.

And a study by the Scottish Executive revealed that one in 20 motorists admitted to driving after taking recreational drugs.

This figure rose to morethanone in 10 when 17-24-year-oldswerequizzed on their habits.

CAPTION(S):

PASS THE TEST: The police are cracking down on drug driving
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 21, 2003
Words:455
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