POLICE will for the first time be able to test at the roadside whether drivers are under the influence of cannabis or cocaine.

Sussex Police plans to start using the new roadside saliva swab tests from March 2 – when new drug-driving laws come into effect.

Drivers who fail the tests will be arrested and taken to the police station for a blood sample.

The £15 Securetec DrugWipe 3S device is the first portable device that can detect for both the drugs.

Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said the tool was a “new tactic” in the efforts to crack down on drug-driving.

She added: “You do a mouth swab and then the blue line comes up if cannabis or cocaine is present.

“It is similar to the indicator test that we have had for alcohol for a long time. £15 for something like that is pretty inexpensive.”

Driving having taken certain drugs above specified limits – including eight prescription drugs - becomes an offence in its own right on March 2.

It will remain a separate offence to drive while impaired through drugs, but the extra laws are being introduced because this has been difficult to prosecute. Under the new offence, drivers can be banned from the road for 12 months, fined up to £5,000 and jailed for six months.

Carl Napp, sergeant for the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, said he welcomed the new tests, which are available to police forces across the country.

He added: “Driving is a complex function; you need your wits about you.

“Anyone who takes any kind of substance which stops that performance makes themselves and others less safe.”

It is estimated 200 people a year are killed in the UK by drivers impaired by drugs.

Figures for Sussex were not immediately available.

Until now police have relied on testing driver’s reactions on the road and taking them to the station for further tests if they might be impaired.

Policing Minister Mike Penning said: “Those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent pedestrians, motorists and their passengers.

“This device is a big step towards bringing more drug driving criminals to justice.”