Government scientists are developing a hand-held, Game Boy-style computer that will test the reactions of drivers suspected of using illicit drugs such as cocaine or speed.
Drivers stopped by the police will be asked to play with the device, which will be programmed with a sequence of game-like tests to analyse manual dexterity and mental alertness
If drivers fall below a certain standard, a police officer will be able to arrest them and take them to a station where they can be ordered to give a blood test.
The device will undergo the first clinical trials in the new year when more than 100 volunteers of varying ages will be asked to carry out tests while over the legal limit for alcohol.
Scientists from the Home Office Scientific Development Branch in Sandridge, Hertfordshire, said that the police have asked them to develop the road-side device because of the growing number of people who drive while taking illegal drugs.
A study in 1999 showed that there had been a six-fold increase over the previous 10 years in the number of people driving under the influence of cannabis, cocaine, heroin or amphetamines, yet there is still no simple detection method that traffic police can use to screen for offenders.
"Currently police use field-impairment tests and these are a bit like the old sobriety tests used in the 1960s before the advent of the alcohol breathalyser," a Home Office scientist said.
Six different tests are under development but by the time the device is ready to be issued to police forces only three of the tests will be programmed into the hand-held computer.Reuse content