Ever since the government introduced a testing and licensing policy for new drivers back in 1903, it’s been working hard to improve the safety of our roads. Although the initial licensing fee cost just 20 shillings (£1) and was used as a way to identify and monitor cars on the road, the system has since evolved into a complete system designed to ensure the overall quality of cars and their respective drivers.
Indeed, if you’re of legal driving age in the UK (17) and want to get behind the wheel you’ll now have to clear a number of hurdles. Instead of paying a paltry £1 for what many class as modern day “freedom”, young adults now have to swat up on the rules of the road, take a theory test, learn to safely handle a car, take another test and then fill out a number forms to tax, insure and MOT their car.
A history of protection
Only once a driver has completed this multistep process will the government give them free reign to operate a car. However, as we all know, that’s not the end of the story when it comes to the government’s job. Monitoring drivers on a random basis has become one of the best defences against dangerous driving since 1962.
Roadside breathalysers and blood tests are standard tools for police officers in the battle against drink drivers and this arsenal of weapons could be set to increase in the coming months thanks to a recent government initiative.
Unlike alcohol fuelled drivers, drug takers have long flown under the radar when it comes to roadside detection. Although the effects of most drugs are plain to see when a user’s faculties are put under pressure, it’s not always possible to accurately assess exactly which drug or how much of it someone has taken.
Drug testing for the future
Fortunately, the UK government has just approved a new testing kit that can determine whether a driver has taken cannabis or cocaine. Described by a spokesperson for the Home Office as “groundbreaking”, the new kit will analyse a driver’s saliva and should available for use across the UK in the early part of 2015.
At present officers have to rely on their professional judgement and further investigation away from the roadside to prove a driver has taken drugs before getting behind the wheel. However, with this new test, which will be used alongside a breathalyser, officers can quickly determine whether a driver has traces of cannabis or cocaine in their system.
Aside from being yet another way in which the government is able to keep the UK’s roads safe, it’s hoped the new kits will help reduce the number of drug related accidents. According to statistics from the Department for Transport, around 200 deaths on our roads each year are the direct result of drug use. This number is comparative to the number of deaths caused by drink driving which shows exactly how significant this new piece of technology could be for drivers in the UK.
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