North Devon drug-driving problem is ‘bigger than we know’

Torridge sector inspector Phil Gray and fire service area manager Neil Blackburn are pictured with o

Torridge sector inspector Phil Gray and fire service area manager Neil Blackburn are pictured with one of the newly signed vehicles outside Torrington Fire Station. Picture: Andy Keeble - Credit: Archant

Police and fire join forces to launch campaign as arrests increase by nearly 50 per cent

One of the new sign-written cars. Picture: Andy Keeble

One of the new sign-written cars. Picture: Andy Keeble - Credit: Archant

The number of motorists arrested for driving under the influence of drugs increased by nearly 50 per cent during the last year, according to police figures.

Data released by Devon and Cornwall Police show that 87 people were arrested for drug-driving in the force area between March 2015 and 2016, compared with 59 the previous year.

Statistics also show a slight rise in the number of accidents caused by drug-driving – 96 from March 2014 to March 2015, compared to 101 from March 2015 to February 2016.

Nationally, the number of motorists charged with drug-driving increased by 140 per cent last year.

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In North Devon, police and firefighters have joined forces to launch a new campaign to crack down on drug-driving.

The new initiative is designed to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs and coincides with new roadside testing equipment that became available in November.

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The ‘Drugs will get you smashed’ message has been added to a number of fire service vehicles to raise public awareness.

Biggest challenge

Neil Blackburn, fire service area manager, said: “It is a really big issue in North Devon – probably bigger than we know and probably bigger than drink-driving.

“It’s the biggest challenge that we currently face around impaired driving.

“We believe it has contributed to an increasing number of fatal and serious road collisions, nationally and locally, over the last few years – and this includes prescription drugs, illegal drugs or a combination of the two.”

Mr Blackburn said the new drug testing kits were now being widely used at the roadside to test people.

“We are working in partnership with the police and other partners to raise awareness and to try to prevent drug use,” he added.

Torridge sector inspector Phil Gray said the drug-driving figures were ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.

“Driving while under the influence of drink or drugs affects concentration, reaction times, blurred vision to just name a few,” he said.


“The aim is to educate drivers to the dangers of drug-driving and highlight the impact on not only a driver’s life but that of their family and friends.”

Insp Gray said the roadside tests can detect cannabis and cocaine, which can be used in conjunction with other physical tests to indicate whether a driver is under the influence of something other than alcohol.

“This could result in their arrest, where further samples would be obtained at the station,” he said.

“This legislation applies to illegal drugs and also certain prescription drugs, so it is vital that anyone driving a vehicle fully understands the implications of taking any kind of drug before getting behind the wheel.

“A conviction could result in a minimum one-year driving ban, £5,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment, as well as an endorsement on their licence, which remains for 11 years.”

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