Testing kits to catch motorists high on drugs could be available to police within the year, the Government announced today.
Ministers hope the "drugalysers" - which will be able to screen for an array of illegal substances, including cocaine and ecstasy - could be installed at every police station by 2012.
The new technology means officers will no longer have to wait for permission from a doctor before a blood test could be taken to be used as evidence in court.
The first devices are due to be in place within months as part of the coalition Government's clampdown on drug-driving.
Road safety minister Mike Penning said: "It is vital that the police have the tools they need to tackle those who drive while impaired by drugs.
"This selfish minority show a flagrant disregard, not only for their own lives, but for the safety of others and we are determined to tackle this menace.
"That is why we are taking urgent steps to make drug screening technology available as soon as possible.
"This equipment will make it easier for the police to prosecute the irresponsible minority who put the lives of the law-abiding majority at risk."
By the end of September, the Home Office expects to issue manufacturers with a final draft specification for devices paving the way for tests to take place, initially in police stations.
The Home Office, Department for Transport and the Technology Strategy Board, also announced a £300,000 investment in further research into drug testing technology.
The aim of the funding is to develop technology that can test for a wider range of drugs than is currently possible as well as develop equipment suitable for roadside testing.
A full roll out of the new technology is expected within two years, the Department for Transport said.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Motorists who drive while under the influence of drugs are a menace to the roads and we have already given the police powers to test drivers for signs of impairment.
"We also want them to be able to test drivers for drugs in their system. By the end of September we aim to have issued a final draft specification for a testing device, setting out the drugs we want to detect. As soon as manufacturers have produced devices that satisfy our specification, we will approve them for police to use."
Although the devices will be used in police stations at first, the intention is for the tests to be carried out at the roadside.
Thousands of people are killed on Britain's roads every year.
In recent studies, 10% of drivers between 18 and 29 have admitted getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs.
So far, no device that meets the Home Office and Department for Transport's requirements has been identified.
It is thought new technology would allow police officers to use a swab to take a sweat or saliva sample which could lead to an immediate blood test.Reuse content