MORE people than ever before were arrested on suspicion of drug driving across the county last month.

A record 163 people on Essex's roads were stopped for alleged drug driving offences.

The previous highest figure was 139 in December.

Essex Police's head of roads policing Adam Pipe said anyone taking drugs and then driving was putting their lives at risk.

He said: "This is a staggering number and follows a trend we’ve been seeing throughout the last 12 months.

“In November last year drug driving arrests outstripped drink driving arrests in Essex for the first time ever.

“Last month we’ve seen 50 percent more drug driving arrests than drink driving arrests and the highest number of drug driving arrests in Essex ever.”

“Vehicles are stopped thanks to information from the public and hits on automatic number plate recognition cameras but on most occasions vehicles are stopped by officers who witness erratic or poor driving.

“That’s because having drugs in your system impacts on your ability to drive and that puts your life at risk and those of other road users.”

Mr Pipe said there was evidence to suggest drug driving was often found in conjunction with other offences.

He added: “Last year we carried out a study of a sample of 231 people arrested on suspicion of drug driving.

“More than half of those arrested had been arrested before, and around a quarter had been arrested in connection with serious crimes including those linked to violence.

“This makes our work to tackle drug drivers even more important. It’s not just making our roads safer, but it’s helping to tackle and disrupt all sorts of other forms of crime.”

Mr Pipe said drug drivers will have nowhere to hide in the future thanks to technology advances and extra officers joining his team.

He said: “More officers around the force are being trained to use the drug wipes meaning we’ll have more opportunities to test drivers we stop and identify the ones breaking the law.

“The force is going to get 215 extra police officers thanks to the rise in the 2019/20 precept – t and 21 of those are going to be coming to the Roads Policing Unit.

“This means we’re going to have more officers out keeping our roads safe, identifying poor driving, and detecting people who are drink or drug driving."

January also saw 104 people arrested on suspicion of drink driving and 29 for failing to provide a specimen.

In 2017, 754 people were arrested on suspicion of drug driving but that had risen to 1,039 in 2018.