DRUG-DRIVING arrests in South Wales have nearly trebled in the last year.
It is a year since the introduction of an easy-to-use swab test that police can use at the roadside. The test can detect cannabis and cocaine, the two most common drugs used by drivers under the influence of drugs.
More than 350 drug-drive arrests were made since February last year, according South Wales Police figures, compared with 120 over the same period the year before.
Martyn Stone, Chief Inspector Specialist Operations for South Wales Police said: “Drug-driving is a serious crime, it threatens life and can cause suffering to many. The penalties for drug-driving are the same as for a drink driving.
“If a person is convicted they could face a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison and an endorsement on their driving licence for 11 years.
“The consequences of being convicted of drug-driving are far greater than first realised. It can include job loss, personal shame, increase in car insurance cost and travel restrictions to certain countries.”
Despite only being able to detect cannabis and cocaine at the roadside the police can arrest people and conduct a laboratory test if they suspect driver of been under the influence. This test can identify all 17 drugs covered by the law including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin.
South Wales Police have acknowledged that roadside swabs will need some work to be fully effective. A spokesman said: “This is quite a new system and over time it will improve. It will be a long process but it will become easier to test people.”
Young men are the most likely group to drug-drive and the UK government have launched an advertising campaign to target them. This follows a recognition in government that deterrent cannot be the only solution.
Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said: “The government will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with police as they work tirelessly to protect the public while recognising enforcement alone is not the answer.
“We need to educate and influence behaviour change which is why we are pushing on with our THINK! campaign, which has helped change attitudes towards drink-driving and ultimately save lives.”
The advert “More reason to be paranoid” was viewed over a million times in two days on YouTube and will be aired on a range of national television channels.