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Police set to get 'drugalyser' kits

Testing kits to catch motorists high on drugs could be available to police within the year, the Government has announced.

Ministers hope the "drugalysers" - which will be able to screen for an array of illegal substances, including cocaine and ecstasy - could be installed at every police station by 2012.

The new technology means officers will no longer have to wait for permission from a doctor before a blood test could be taken to be used as evidence in court. The first devices are due to be in place within months as part of the coalition Government's clampdown on drug-driving.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "This selfish minority show a flagrant disregard, not only for their own lives, but for the safety of others and we are determined to tackle this menace. That is why we are taking urgent steps to make drug screening technology available as soon as possible.

"This equipment will make it easier for the police to prosecute the irresponsible minority who put the lives of the law-abiding majority at risk."

By the end of September, the Home Office expects to issue manufacturers with a final draft specification for devices, paving the way for tests to take place, initially in police stations.

The Home Office, Department for Transport and the Technology Strategy Board also announced a £300,000 investment in further research into drug testing technology, with the aim to develop roadside testing equipment.

A full roll-out of the new technology is expected within two years, the Department for Transport said. Although the devices will be used in police stations at first, the intention is for the tests to be carried out at the roadside.

AA president Edmund King said: "The AA has long been highlighting the hidden problems of drugs and driving so we are delighted that these issues are being addressed. We believe that having a drugalyser in police stations will make police work easier and act as a deterrent to drug-drivers."

Kevin Delaney, head of road safety at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "This is a positive step as drugalyser kits will simplify the procedure, but they will only be of use with the right number of police on the street exercising their powers of detection."

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