Number of people arrested for driving under influence of drugs' soars by 600% in one year'

Spike follows introduction of a new law prohibiting 'drug driving' in England and Wales

The number of people arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs has soared by more than 600 per cent in the past year, new figures reveal.

The spike in arrests follows the introduction of a new law in March 2015 prohibiting “drug driving” in England and Wales. Police have been enforcing the new statute with a “drugalyser” screening swab test which can catch offenders at the roadside. For the first time, specified blood limits for 17 controlled drugs have been implemented, including a number of prescription drugs.  

In the 11 months until January 2016, 530 arrests were made in Cheshire alone, a seven-fold increase on the 70 in 2014.

In December 2015, of the 1,888 screening tests carried out by police across England and Wales, nearly 50 per cent turned out to be positive.

“The new law is probably one of the biggest successes in road safety for the past five years,” said Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.  “No one really knew the true extent of drug driving before this law came in. The reason figures have gone up is because it’s so much easier to test people at the roadside and at police stations. It’s much quicker and much cheaper.”

The new law has led to higher conviction rates of offenders, too. Since it was implemented, 98 per cent of those arrested have been convicted. Previously, the conviction rate was 80 per cent as the law was more difficult to enforce because police had to prove that the drug had caused the impairment. But now, officers only need to show that certain drugs are present above the specified limits.

“The strong message now is if you’re driving with drugs in your system, there is a good chance you’ll be stopped and prosecuted,” said Mr Greig, who has called for the law to be brought in in Scotland, too.