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UK NEWS

New powers to tackle drug driving

Apr 21, 2015
A new law to make it easier for police to catch and convict drug drivers took effect on 2 March, 2015, in England and Wales.

Motorists who get behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs face a criminal record, loss of their licence for at least a year and a fine of up to £5,000. The legislation makes it illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body above specified levels, including eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs. People using prescription drugs within recommended amounts will not be penalised.

Police forces will have access to new screening equipment to test suspected drug drivers. Officers can screen drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. They will be able to test for these and other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check. New devices that can test for a greater number of drugs at the roadside will be developed in the future.

This new law, coupled with the testing kits, will make it quicker to identify those driving under the influence of drugs and help the prosecution of drug drivers. It remains an offence to drive when impaired by any drug, including medical drugs.  Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill said: “This new law will save lives. We know driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous; it devastates families and ruins lives.  The government’s message is clear - if you take drugs and drive, you are endangering yourself and others and you risk losing your licence and a conviction.”

The law covers the use of eight drugs commonly associated with medicinal use that are sometimes abused, and that have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk and to reflect their use as medicines. These are:

  • morphine used to treat pain – opiate/opioid-based medication will metabolise (chemically change) into morphine and show in a blood result;
  • diazepam;
  • clonazepam;
  • flunitrazepam;
  • lorazepam;
  • oxazepam;
  • temazepam used to treat anxiety or inability to sleep;
  • methadone used to treat drug addiction.

Amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease is also planned to be included within the offence shortly, subject to Parliamentary approval.

New research conducted by THINK! revealed that 20% of those surveyed knew someone who had driven after taking illegal drugs. Almost half of those surveyed (49%) said that as a passenger, they would not feel comfortable asking a driver if they were under the influence of illegal drugs.  Of those who admitted to driving under the influence of illegal drugs, 55% said they did so because they felt safe to drive and 60% revealed they had previously driven a car when they were unsure if they were still under the influence of illegal drugs.

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