Police are to use technologically advanced road-side breath-test kits that will stop some drink-drivers escaping punishment from as early as next year, a transport minister revealed.
Motorists who currently fail a breathalyser test must be taken back to a police station for more complex tests, in order to secure an eventual conviction.
But this system allows some drivers to escape punishment for drink-driving because they have sobered up enough to pass those later tests by time they are carried out.
Now police will be equipped with sophisticated “evidential” devices, allowing them to obtain the accurate results they need at the roadside.
Speaking to a committee of MPs, policing minister Mike Penning said: “Things are moving very fast, for instance on roadside evidential testing for drink.
“I think it will get type approval in the next 18 months. That will take out a whole swathe of bureaucracy and a whole swathe of concerns about the time taken when someone is arrested at the roadside.
“Have they dropped to a lower level? All these things will be done at the roadside.”
‘Type approval’ – the go-ahead for new technology by Home Office scientists – is required before police forces are able to purchase new equipment.
The ‘Drugwipe’ device, to test for cocaine and cannabis from a saliva sample within three minutes, was approved in January and vailable to police forces immediately.
Ministers first announced the intention to bring in roadside evidential breath testing as long ago as 2012 and the law has already been changed to allow it.
Traffic police will then be able to charge drink-drivers on the spot, seize their car keys and go straight back on patrol.
Around one in every 16 motorists admits to driving whilst over the legal drink drive limit – and are involved in accidents which cause one in six of all road deaths.
Mr Penning was giving evidence to the Commons transport select committee, which is investigating whether the risk of being caught for traffic offences has fallen.
That suggestion follows the controversy over steep cuts to police budgets and the loss of more than 36,000 staff since 2010.