CALLS for the introduction of a new drug driving offence are being supported by Cheshire police and crime commissioner John Dwyer.
Proposals being debated in the House of Commons this week could result in experts drawing up a schedule of specified drugs and setting threshold levels for each of those drugs found in blood or urine.
In the case of some drugs the limit would be zero.
Mr Dwyer believes the proposed change would play a major role in reducing deaths and injuries on the roads.
He said: “The issue of people driving when they have used drugs is causing increasing concern.
“Nationwide figures for 2010 show impairment by drugs, either illegal or medicinal, was a contributory factor in road traffic collisions which resulted in more than 1,000 casualties, including 51 deaths.
“In my election manifesto, I called for a zero tolerance approach to drug-driving. I also gave a commitment to press for legislation to make it easier to assess whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.”
Under the proposals, drivers found to be over the limits will face up to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine and a minimum 12 months driving ban.
The new law could be in force early next year with police being issued with equipment similar to the existing alcohol breath test kits to carry out roadside drug tests. Final tests would be carried out in police stations.
Mr Dwyer said: “People are already prosecuted for driving while unfit because of drugs but the prosecution must prove the driver’s ability is impaired.
“The evidence for that is provided by roadside Field Impairment Tests (FIT). They are open to a degree of interpretation. The proposed new law would take away that ‘impairment’ element and make prosecution more straightforward.
“Cheshire Police played a leading role in the introduction of FIT tests and I am sure the introduction of a drug-driving offence along the lines being proposed would assist officers and act as a significant deterrent to people who are a danger to themselves and to the rest of us who use the roads."