A GREATER Manchester Police crackdown on drink and drug drivers runs until next Monday.

Here, investigative reporter KEN BENNETT spends a night with officers on the front line in their mission to curtail irresponsible and dangerous drivers and drive down fatal and serious road traffic collisions.

UNDER the bright lights of the police custody suite I am watching a man walking the line ...

He hunches purposefully over the yellow strip of tape pasted to the floor and launches on a toe to heel journey monitored by three police officers and a video camera.

At first, the ritual seems slightly bizarre until you examine the chilling circumstances that brought this slightly built leather-coated driver into police custody.

Just two hours earlier, the same man had been behind the wheel of a car driving towards one of Manchester’s busiest roads.

A police patrol car shadowing the wayward vehicle logged he had no driving licence, no insurance, no road tax and remarkably, no number plates on the vehicle which was pulled over just short of entering a tide of rush hour traffic.

The driver was breathalysed at the scene by the two uniformed policeman who had chronicled his journey - he tested negative.

But he’s under the judicial gaze of PC Danny Moorhouse, a highly-trained traffic officer specialising in drug detection.

I had joined him on night patrol with GMP’s crack traffic squad tackling the menace of drug taking drivers who, until changes in the law, could slip under the radar.

Now legislation sets limits for 17 legal and illegal drugs and has made it easier for officers to detect drug drivers.

And the kit we are carrying in our high-speed unmarked patrol car enables PC Moorhouse and other expert officers to test motorists for cannabis and cocaine by using a saliva sample at the roadside.

But the special portable machine remained in its padded, zip-up bag because the accused man was already in the police station.

Said bearded Danny: “The law makes very clear distinctions under the Road Traffic Act.

“Motorists now realise drink driving is not acceptable and they must not think for one minute that driving and taking drugs, class A or otherwise, is an option either: It isn’t.

“Our machine works like a breathalyser,” he explained. “It takes a saliva sample and can test for traces of cocaine or cannabis in just seven minutes.

“People would then be taken to the station for a blood test if they test positive.”

Now we are back on the road on the outskirts of Oldham shadowing an estate car. Danny signals the male driver to stop, and joins him at the roadside.

“I can smell cannabis,” he tells the driver who says it was being taken by a relative. The requisite saliva test proves negative and the driver is allowed to leave the scene.

Currently, anyone convicted of drink or drug driving faces some stark issues:

• A criminal record

• At least a one-year driving ban

• Higher motor insurance costs

• Endorsement on your driving licence for 11 years

• And you could also lose your job.

Chief Inspector Harrison White adds: “We do not tolerate anyone who is under the influence of drink or drugs while driving.

“They are not only a danger to themselves but, more importantly, to other innocent drivers or pedestrians using the road.

“The warmer weather and lighter nights can tempt people to stay out longer and have a drink but this is exactly the type of scenario that can lead to drink driving.

“ If you do drink, please arrange alternative transport home to ensure you don’t affect anyone else’s night.

“Any amount of drink and drugs can impair your vision and dramatically reduce your reaction times.”

And he adds: “It only takes a second to lose control of your car but the consequences can last a lifetime. Don’t risk it, stay safe and have none while driving on the road.

“If you suspect anyone is driving under the influence of drink or drugs, contact the police directly on 101 or 999 in an emergency where they pose an immediate threat to themselves or other road users. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

I agree and head home into the dawn for a very strong drink ... of tea.