More people have failed drug driving tests in South Yorkshire than anywhere else in England and Wales – with 61 of 118 people tested since March on cannabis or cocaine at the wheel.
The vast majority of those taking drugs and driving were on cannabis, with about a quarter taking cocaine – and the majority were men aged 17 to 25. The new laws, introduced 12 weeks ago, mean drug driving carries the same penalties as drink driving. Officers carry roadside drug testing kits similar to alcohol breathalysers, which screen for illegal substances.
One person pulled over tested positive for alcohol, cannabis and cocaine at the wheel, all at the same time.
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said the 52 per cent drug driving failure rate for tests in South Yorkshire is not significantly higher than other forces, but stressed the need to raise awareness of drug driving under the new laws.
He also said the force has led the way on the new legislation – South Yorkshire was the first force to get a positive test just hours after the law came in and also secured the first conviction.
Mr Crompton said: “I have been asked if we have a particular drug problem in South Yorkshire. My view is no.
“I have been a police officer all my life. I’m not under any illusions about the extent of drugs use across society.
“So the fact that some people who take drugs get behind the wheel of a car is no massive surprise to me.
“All metropolitan areas are going to have significant amounts of drug misuse. I wouldn’t say we are any different from West Yorkshire or Manchester.
“We do a lot of work around arresting people for trafficking drugs and dealing drugs. But there are still people misusing drugs and some of those people will get behind the wheel of a car.
“If you take drugs, you are not safe to get behind the wheel of a car, and we will catch you.”
There has been two convictions so far in South Yorkshire under the new laws.
Elliott Greaves, aged 18, pleaded guilty at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court following his arrest in March, just four days after the new drug driving law came in.
Greaves, of Lundwood Grove, Owlthorpe, was stopped by officers on High Street in Beighton on March 6 and tested positive for cocaine.
He was fined £200, disqualified from driving for 20 months and ordered to pay £80 costs.
Michael Allington, 22, of Windsor Street in Thurnscoe, was stopped in Goldthorpe on March 6. He banned for 12 months, fined £300 and ordered to pay costs totalling £115 after admitting to driving with cannabis in his system.
Mr Crompton added that there is more work to be done to make drug driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving has become thanks to police awareness work.
He added: “Some people think cannabis should be legalised. That doesn’t enter into the debate. These people are dangerous to other road users. This is an opportunity to catch them.”
Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, said: “It is obvious from these results that there is a problem of people driving while under the influence of drugs that is as serious as those driving after drinking. If anyone believes that drugs will not be detected, they are much mistaken.
“We are determined in South Yorkshire to take off the roads those who put lives at risk whether through alcohol or drugs.”