Alcohol and drug seminar concludes in Bristol

Published Tue, 19/05/2015 - 16:30

TISPOL’S SEMINAR ON drink- and drug-driving took place in Bristol on 19 May. The event,which was chaired by TISPOL General Secretary Ruth Purdie, included presentations from police officers, policy makers and scientists from across Europe.

Ruth opened the seminar, with a straightforward message. “We still have many challenges in the field of drink-and drug-driving. Resources will be limited so we will have to look more to causation factors. What do we know about people who are likely to drink and drive or take drugs and drive?” she asked.

 “We can’t succeed alone. We must be in partnership with governments, the European Commission and pressure groups.”

Supt Jane Derrick of Sussex Police spoke on the topic of alcohol and women, with reference to Operation Dragonfly. “We were getting most of our drink-drivers in Brighton, a city where there are excellent public transport links,” she said.

Ellen Townsend of the European Transport Safety Council said “Approximately 6,500 lives would have been saved (in 2010 figures) if all drivers had obeyed the prevailing drink-drive laws,” she told delegates. “Reducing the legal limits, increasing enforcement use of interlock devices are all shown as effective ways of lowering casualties.”

Professor Alain Verstraete of Ghent University explained that the highest risks involved drivers with blood alcohol concentration of greater than 0.5 and drivers taking alcohol combined with sedatives. Those taking a combination of alcohol, sedatives and stimulants increased crash risk 200 times.

“French studies show that if you take cannabis, your risk of being involved in a crash is doubled. For amphetamines it’s 7.6 times increased, for cocaine it’s 5.3 times and for opiates it’s 3.3 times,” he told delegates. "If we took all medicines out of drivers, we would reduce crashes by 3.3%.”

Dr Richie Maguire said: “the time is right for random mandatory intoxicant tests. We’re very close now to finishing our evaluation of roadside drug testing equipment. We can’t do anything until legislation is in place. Some re-evaluation is necessary for quality control purposes.”

Supt Iain Murray, head of road policing for Police Scotland, said it had never been a case of ‘let’s not drink and drive’ – even though that had always been the police message. “People still want to know ‘what can I drink and still drive.’ But alcohol-related crashes were costing Scotland £44m, never mind the families wrecked and lives ruined. That’s why our position was and remains that if you drink, you don’t drive.”

Drink drive limit changed and there was an 11% reduction in domestic violence in Christmas 2014. No other changes in legislation.

Jean-Pierre Blocken explained the success of Belgium’s BOB campaign, and Paul Mountford (ably assisted by André Roth), looked very practically at field impairment testing, though what some of the volunteers thought of the highly debilitating impairment goggles is another matter.

Roger Agombar explained the background to the introduction of statutory drug limits for drivers. “Importantly, I is an absolute offence and there is no requirement to prove impairment or a reduced standard of driving,” he explained. He also asked for responses from European countries on topics including the use of urine for drug testing.

Andy Bodkin of the Home Office set out a number of challenges, including the arrival of more sophisticated electronic drugs that would not require any substance to be taken in order to achieve effects and impairment on drivers. “There are also a lot of ethical considerations, challenges and opportunities as technology advances and we get better at monitoring, sensoring and detecting,” he said.

 The Seminar concluded with summing up by Ruth Purdie, in which she reflected onthe challenges and opportunities we face inthe years to come. "Will we have the resource and the capability to make best use of the new technologies?" she asked. "I know we are all committed to the task, as it is key to making Europe's roads safer for everyone."