MORE motorists than ever before are being caught driving under the influence of drugs in Cheshire.

Police arrested 55 road users after performing 200 road-side assessments last year and officers are warning that they will be getting tougher in 2009.

Twenty-four of those arrested were convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs with 23 cases still outstanding.

Since 2005, officers have been trained to carry out different tests if they suspect a driver has taken illegal substances, the most common being cannabis and cocaine.

Chester-based road policing officer Robbie Burns is a trained recognition expert and said Cheshire police treat drug-driving as seriously as drinkdriving.

“We want to raise the awareness of this issue as we consider drug-driving to be the evil twin sibling of drinkdriving,” he said.

“I can’t praise my colleagues highly enough, as soon as they have been trained, they have been really keen to get out there and tackle the drug-drive problem by actively looking for impaired drivers through drugs.

“Ultimately, it is those officers who have to deliver the devastating news to families that nobody wants to hear.”

PC Burns is also keen to highlight the fact that blood samples of those involved in serious and fatal collisions are now routinely analysed for the presence of drugs, even if they pass an initial breath test.

“The effects are the same as drink and the penalties are the same,” he added. “So if you use drugs and drive, there is a strong likelihood you will be detected.

“Most of all we are committed to the reduction of serious and fatal collisions on the roads of Cheshire.”

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