The government is fighting back against the scourge of drug-drivers with a new law that makes it easier for police to catch and convict motorists caught driving under the influence.
Drivers face a fine of up to £5,000, one-year driving ban and the loss of their licence if found to be under the influence of eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs as of the 2nd of March, 2015.
Roadside testing equipment – known as drugalysers – will allow the police to test for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside in less than ten minutes. Drivers suspected of being on drugs who pass the saliva test can then be tested for all drugs at a police station.
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 prescription drugs being tested for are morphine, diazepam, clonazepam, fluntrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam and methadone.
Benzoylecgonine, cocaine, delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol aka cannabis, ketamine, lysergic acid diethlyamide methylamphetamine, MDMA and 6-monoacetylmorphine (aka heroin) are the illegal drugs covered by the new law.
An amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (aka ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease could be added to the list, subject to parliamentary approval.
Road safety charities have welcomed the news. Institute of Advanced Motorists chief executive Sarah Sillars said: “The IAM has always stated there should be no doubt to drivers and riders as to what the correct course of action should be; no-one should be driving while under the influence of alcohol or any illegal drugs in your system.
Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend added: “Drug driving wrecks lives, and it is a crime for which there is no excuse. We are delighted that our long-running campaign for a tougher law is finally seeing success.”
Speaking on the dangers, Kings College reader in Addiction Science Dr Kim Wolff commented: “It is worrying to note that so many drug drivers said they felt safe to drive after taking illegal drugs. Illegal drugs seriously impair skills required to drive safely, such as reaction time and decision making.
“In many cases those who take certain illegal drugs believe that they are safe to drive, but are in fact putting themselves and others at risk. Greater awareness of the dangers of drug driving is important as we move forward with this important step towards safer roads.”
A Think! roadside campaign has been launched in conjunction with the new law, which is now in effect in England and Wales. It will feature on the radio, online and in pub and club washrooms.
Those unsure whether they are unfit to drive when taking prescribed drugs should talk to their doctor or a pharmacist before getting behind the wheel.