A study published this week by road safety charity Brake quizzed more than 1,000 drivers and found that seven in 10 drivers would welcome random drug and alcohol testing by the police. Brake said just one in every 10 respondents said they were opposed to such tests.
The research comes as Brake says levels of drink- and drug-driving are increasing. The organisation cites recent figures that estimate the total number of deaths in crashes involving a drunk driver went up nine percent from 2016 to 2017, rising from 230 to 250. The charity also says someone was killed or injured in a drink-driving-related crash every hour, on average, in December. Over the same period, the number of fatal and serious crashes involving a “driver or rider impaired by illicit or medicinal drugs” rose by eight percent, from 447 to 484 incidents.
As a result, the charity says it is calling for police in England, Wales and Scotland to be given new powers to set up vehicle checkpoints and randomly test drivers for drink and drugs. Brake hopes the introduction of random testing would have an “immediate impact” on the number of people driving under the influence.
Brake says random breath testing is already in place in many other countries - including in Northern Ireland, where it was introduced in 2016 - and the charity claims the policy is “highly effective” in reducing drink-drive casualties. Existing laws in England, Wales and Scotland, however, only allow police to carry out breath or drug screening tests if they think they’ve been drinking or on drugs, if they have committed a traffic offence, or if they have been involved in a traffic collision.
“It’s shocking to see drink and drug driving increasing on our roads, causing untold devastation to families across the country every day,” said Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake. “We need urgent action by the next Government to tackle this worrying trend and we call for new police powers to set up vehicle checkpoints to carry out random alcohol and drug tests on the roads. As our research shows, drivers fully support this move and international evidence suggests that random testing can have a positive impact. Drink and drug driving are a blight on our roads and drivers need to expect that if they break the law they will be caught and punished.
“It’s vital that drivers, and passengers, are aware of the dangers of drink and drug driving, especially ahead of the busy festive season. Whilst we want people to go out and enjoy themselves, drivers must know that getting behind the wheel after drinking can have potentially devastating consequences. Simply put, if you are drinking, don’t drive, and if you must drive, don’t drink.”