Monday, 22 November 2010

The Drugalyser: New Weapon In The Clampdown On Drug Driving

A new handheld “drugalyser” that detects substance abuse in under two minutes could become the latest weapon the clampdown on drug driving.

The portable handheld device can detect cocaine and heroine from a saliva sample within 90 seconds and other substances within minutes. It is able to detect drugs in the body at far lower levels than existing testing devices

The new portable device, which will be available in 2011, would mean police officers could carry out tests on suspected drug drivers at the roadside.

A positive result would mean officers would 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 government announced plans in August to install a device to catch motorists driving under the influence of drugs at every police station within two years after a survey revealed earlier this year that nine in 10 drivers support a tougher stance on drug driving.

Last year, in a government-sponsored study, 10 per cent of drivers aged 18-29 admitted getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs.

Peter Welch, chairman and chief executive of Concateno, which produced the decvice, said: “The new system will offer significant operational benefits to healthcare and police professionals; perhaps the most important being the ability to speed up the point of care testing process.

It may also be used hospitals and doctors surgeries to detect patients with substance abuse problems.

Source :

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Drivers To Face Random Drink And Drug Tests Under New Powers

All drivers face random drink and drug tests under new powers being requested by the police.

Chief constables have asked ministers to change the law to give officers “a power to randomly check any driver”.

The request from the Association of Chief Police Officers has emerged as ministers draw up new rules on driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Some police forces already use checkpoints to stop and check drivers, but police chiefs want to be able to go much further.

In a memo submitted to MPs investigating the issue, police chiefs said:

“ACPO wholeheartedly supports the introduction of a power to randomly check any driver.

“Putting conditions on when a breath test can be required simply supports the view that you can drink, drive and avoid prosecution by playing within the ‘rules’, police have unrestricted powers to stop vehicles to check tyres, condition and the documents of a driver but are restricted when they can check for drink or drugs.

“A random power would support targeted checkpoint testing of drink drivers carried out now is some areas but requiring an element of consent.

“Random powers are supported, not necessarily because we believe that the existing powers are inadequate; rather, we believe that this simple measure, widely publicised, would increase the perception in the minds of drivers that if they do drink and drive they are likely to be caught and brought to justice at any time, anywhere.

Police chiefs also demanded a change in the law to make it easier to test motorists for illegal drugs, warning that officers are “disillusioned” with the current legal “barriers” to carrying out such tests.

Granting police the power to carry out random breath testing is one of the key recommendations in the report on road safety prepared by Sir Peter North, former Principal of Jesus College, currently being considered by ministers.

The previous Government had drawn up plans to change the law to allow this to happen, but were voted out of office before they were able to do so.

However Kevin Delaney, the former head of traffic at Scotland Yard, said the police could carry out random testing already.

“They have two powers which enable them to do this,” he said.

“Police can stop any car at random. This, I believe, dates back to the 1930s, when officers wanted to check whether the driver had a licence.

“They also have the power to carry out a breath test if they think drink has been taken. It could be they smell alcohol on the breath or see someone driving away from a pub.”

The ACPO plea was backed by Rob Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.

“International experience shows that regular and visible breath testing by police forces reduces the amount of drink-driving,” he said.

“Allowing the police to stop any driver and breath test him or her would send a clear signal to the driving public that the law is being enforced and that drinking and driving are two activities that are best undertaken separately.”

Responding to the call, a Department for Transport spokesman said:

“We are considering the North Report’s recommendations and will respond in due course.

“Our priority will be to tackle dangerous offenders in the most effective way possible to protect law abiding road users.”

Source :

Monday, 8 November 2010

Young Drivers Don’t Need To Pay Over The Odds For Car Insurance

Young drivers struggling to find an affordable insurance policy are turning to new technology to bring down premiums.

The average premium for a motorist aged between 17 and 22 is now £1956, according to the AA. That’s an increase of more than 50% since last year.

Young motorists pay such high premiums because statistically they are more likely to be involved in an accident. Road crashes are the biggest killer and cause of paralysis, limb loss and brain injury in young people. An 18-year-old is also more than three times as likely to crash as a 48-year-old.

Ian Crowder of the AA says: “Insurers are shunning young drivers because of the high volume and cost of claims. If you end up in a wheelchair because of a car accident, then the insurer could be facing a £17 million claim. And it’s a lot more common than you might expect. One in five young people will have a catastrophic accident in their first year of driving.”

A number of firms are using new technology to monitor motorists. The idea is to promote safer driving and so reduce premiums, which can benefit all drivers but might be particularly attractive to youngsters with high premiums. Insurethebox, for example, fits a satellite device into your car so it can track its movements. The system rewards careful motorists who drive a limited number of miles each year. Mark Grant, business development director of Insurethebox, says: “The technology not only reduces premiums, but also promotes safer driving.”

Insurethebox’s annual insurance policy covers 6000 miles. Drivers are then given 100 bonus miles each month – as long as they drive carefully. Bonus miles are deducted for a number of risky activities, such as driving at rush hour or at night, or for speeding. The average Insurethebox customer earns 50 bonus miles a month.

Drivers can buy top-up miles if they are likely to breach the 6000 limit. Extra miles are sold in bundles of 250 and the cost depends on your original premium. I-kube customers also have a “black box” fitted to their car. But they earn a discount on their standard premium by agreeing not to drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

Anyone who drives during these so-called “red hours” incurs an additional premium of £60.

Coverbox is another firm that uses tracking technology to monitor your driving. Customers can then get a rebate on their premium if they drive fewer miles than forecast or if they drive more often than expected during the day than at night. Of course, if you exceed your forecast mileage, or drive more than expected at night, you will have to pay an additional premium.

Penny Searles, director of Coverbox, says: “The black box constantly monitors your driving and customers can look at their driving reports on their own portal. It allows them to control the costs of their insurance and makes them more aware of their driving behaviour.”

Searles reckons that Coverbox customers pay on average 25% less for their insurance than with a standard policy.

Coverbox works with a panel of six insurers, including The Co-operative Insurance. Grant Mitchell, head of motor insurance for The Co-operative Insurance, says: “The Co-operative Insurance is committed to young drivers and raising awareness of the importance of driving safely and responsibly. Through our work with National road safety charity Brake, and Coverbox, our technology provider, we are in a unique position to help educate young drivers on the importance of responsible driving. We do this through the specialist website and can also offer young drivers the opportunity to access cheaper car insurance through our partnership with Coverbox.”

Motorists who drive safely can also expect lower premiums in future because they can build up a no-claims discount (NCD). Drivers earn a discount on their premium if they do not make any claims. The NCD can be valuable, reducing the cost of cover by a third after one year.

The specialist firms usually arrange for someone to come and fit the tracking device to your car at a convenient time and place. But check on any fees for the box and installation. Also check whether there is a charge to remove the device if you change cars or insurers.

Some drivers might be wary of the black box. Perhaps it’s a bit too much like Big Brother, collecting potentially incriminating data, such as breaches of the speed limit. But there are other ways, outlined above, for young drivers to save on car insurance.


1. Buy a sensible car. Every new car is assigned to a car insurance group, and the lower the group, the lower the likely premium. You can find details of the car insurance groups at

2. Don’t modify your car with spoilers and fat tyres as you will pay a higher premium.

3. You might earn a discount on your insurance if you fit approved security devices, such as an alarm or immobiliser system. If you can, keep your car in a locked garage when it’s not in use.

4. It is sometimes cheaper to buy third party, fire and theft insurance rather than comprehensive cover. But you have to weigh up the advantage of saving against the disadvantage of limited cover.

5. If you are prepared to pay a bigger voluntary excess, you might pay a lower premium. But remember that the excess is the amount of money you contribute towards any claim, so it should be affordable.

6. Shop around for an insurance quote. But make sure you compare like with like. A car insurance policy might be cheap because it does not offer many benefits.

7. Consider taking the Driving Standards Agency’s Pass Plus course, which gives extra tuition on night, motorway and inner city driving. Insurers and brokers often offer substantial discounts to drivers who have completed the course.

8. Pay annually. It is more expensive to spread the cost of your insurance over monthly instalments because you will be charged interest.

9. Add an additional driver. If you add an older, more experienced family member with a clean driving record it could cut the cost.

10. If you are the main driver or the registered owner of the car, do not insure the vehicle in your parents’ name and put yourself down as a named driver. The practice – known as “fronting” - is illegal and could invalidate any claim.

Source :

Thursday, 4 November 2010

New Speed Camera Can Catch Drivers Committing Five Offences At Once

A speed camera designed to catch motorists committing up to five offences at the same time could be heading to Britain's roads. As well as catching speeding motorists, the Asset camera should be able to pick out drivers who are not wearing seatbelts and accurately measure distances between moving cars to identify tailgating.

Asset (advanced safety and driver support for essential road transport) can also note number plates and recognise cars with out-of-date tax discs and no insurance.

Funded by the European commission, the camera system is being developed by a consortium that includes a number of European universities and research institutes and is being tested in Finland.

Motoring organisations and campaigners in the UK gave the system a cautious welcome. AA president Edmund King said he was pleased if it stopped motorists tailgating but hoped it would not be used as a money-making measure. "Tailgating is more dangerous in most cases than speeding so I think most motorists would welcome it," he said. "We will need sophisticated technology to police the roads and there would have to be safeguards. But it needs to be done as a safety measure, not as a money-making machine."

The campaign group Speed Cameras Dot Org said the devices should not become a replacement for traditional traffic police officers. A spokesman said: "We cautiously welcome a device that can detect several potential motoring offences, but it remains to be seen how accurate it is and how fairly it will be used.

"The main actions that cause the most accidents, namely not paying attention to the road, misjudging distances and other drivers' intentions, cannot be detected by a device of any sort. More police patrols and better driver education are the only ways to reduce accidents."

The development of Asset began in 2008 and is due to end next year. The developers hope that by 2013 its cameras will be set up across Europe, including the UK. Its selling point is that one camera can do a series of tasks: cameras now tend to be used for different jobs.

Matti Kutila, senior research scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland, where the system is being tested, said: "The main intention is to support traffic police to supervise that the drivers follow traffic rules such as wearing seat belts, preventing over-speeding and maintaining sufficient distance to the front vehicle. This of course is beneficial for road safety."

Source : Steven Morris -

Learner Drivers To Sit Theory Tests ‘Blind’

The multiple-choice questions which appear in the written part of the exam will not be published in future, so candidates will not be able to memorise the answers.

‘The driving theory test should help to prepare drivers for real life on the road,’ said road safety minister Mike Penning.

‘Good driving is not just about vehicle-handling skills but also about having the knowledge and understanding of safe driving theory.

‘No longer publishing these questions and answers will mean that successful candidates will have to understand the theory rather than simply memorising answers.’

The minister said the move would lead to better drivers and safer roads. It follows the introduction of independent driving into the exam and the decision to stop publishing test routes to make sure the candidates can handle motoring along unfamiliar roads.

The Driving Standards Agency will change the format of books and learning materials to help people prepare for the new theory tests, which start in January 2012.

Practice questions and answers, not used in theory tests, will still be available for revision.

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Source : Mike Penning -