New Drug Driving Laws See Almost 800 Arrests in Wales in First Year
Nearly 800 arrests were made for drug driving in Wales in the year after new laws came into force.
The four Welsh police forces made 770 arrests between March 2, 2015, when the new laws came in and the same date this year.
South Wales Police arrested 136 people for drug driving, with 70 people charged, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests by BBC Radio 5 Live. Dyfed Powys made 71 arrests over the period, with 22 facing charges.
In North Wales the figures were 223 arrests with 168 charged, while Gwent made 340 drug driving arrests, with 108 charged.
Drivers can be prosecuted if they are caught exceeding limits for eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs. The levels for the illegal drugs, which include heroin, cocaine and cannabis, mean there is virtually zero tolerance for those caught with these drugs in their system.
Officers can use “drugalysers” to screen for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside and can test for other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check.
Chair of Road Safety Wales Susan Storch said: “It gives the police services another tool in the box. It’s something we’ve been waiting for for a long time to start addressing the issues around drug driving.”
Mrs Storch, who is also a road safety officer with Dyfed Powys Police, said: “We know that in the UK 83% of all drug-driving arrests are down to the use of cannabis and cocaine, which is why they’ve brought that in first – so we’ve got that capability at the roadside.”
Across England and Wales the Metropolitan Police made the most arrests at 1,636. The capital’s force was followed by Greater Manchester with 573, and Cheshire with 546.
The legislation was introduced to run with a previous law which made it illegal to drive when impaired by any drug. For some the introduction of the test and the new laws has had a huge impact. South Yorkshire Police drug driving-related arrests went from 13 in the year the test was introduced to 456 the following year.
But despite advances in drug-testing technology figures show those arrested for drunk driving still vastly outnumber those detained for drug driving.
Nearly 2,300 arrests were made for drink driving in Wales over the same period from March 2015.
Mrs Storch added: “It’s much easier to carry out a breath test at the roadside than it’s to test for other impairments because we’re just looking for ethanol – just that one compound when you’re looking for breath testing for alcohol. With drugs you’re looking for a multitude of different chemical bases.”
Darren Devine - Wales Online