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Roadside PDA test targets drug-crazed UK drivers

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There seems to be no end this week to the fascinating and socially-useful new applications for the humble PDA.

No sooner had we got wind of a terrific brain-tickling PDA peripheral than word came down the wire that UK police may in the future use PDAs to test drivers for drug use.

According to a New Scientist report, the so-called "impairment detector" is currently under test at the Police Scientific Development Branch in St Albans. The PDA programme is specifically designed to combat the increasing incidence of drug use while behind the wheel.

It's all pretty simple, really. Suspects are subjected to two tests designed to "assess three critical driving skills: motor control, ability to react to the unexpected, and concentration levels".

What this means is that your drug-fuelled boy racer has to follow an object across the screen with a stylus while keeping an eye out for other objects popping up at which point he must press a button.

The second challenge involves road signs flashing onto the screen to which the driver must respond except, that is, for a "target sign", to which they must not respond.

Both these cunning tests were developed at the University of Surrey, where, if other UK universities are anything to go by, they should know a thing or two about substance abuse.

Meanwhile, it remains to been seen what the practical/legal implications are for this drugs-busting PDA application. According to New Scientist, a Home Office spokesman says "it is too early to comment on how such a device would be used or whether the results it produces would be admissible as evidence in court".

Quite so. And to further reassure drivers who might be led to believe that a new police terror campaign against UK motorists might be in the offing, the impairment detector will not be in service for at least two years - even if tests prove successful. ®

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