The equivalent of nearly one million motorists have driven while on illegal drugs, a survey has suggested. Three in every 100 UK drivers admitted the fact in a report called ‘Fit to drive’.
11 per cent said they may have been a passenger while the driver was on drugs, with 18 per cent of young people (aged 18 to 24) most likely to be in this situation followed by 15 per cent of males. 29 per cent admitted they wouldn’t necessarily speak out against drug-driving friend.
Cannabis came out as the drug most used by drivers, at two per cent. Cocaine came in second with one per cent. Ecstasy, ketamine, LSD or mushrooms, amphetamines heroin and ‘other’ all scored half a per cent.
Insurance broker Direct Line and road safety charity Brake admitted their results mirror the findings of a 2003 report, but warned the ‘true extent’ of drug-driving abuse is probably greater, owing to an underrepresentation of people from hard to reach social groups.
Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend commented: “Drug driving is a menace that causes absolute devastation to families and communities, and ends too many lives too soon.
“Our message to everyone is never to underestimate the effects of illegal drugs on driving. If someone is on drugs, they are not fit to drive, even if they don’t seem obviously impaired. Look out for your friends, and if you think they might be driving on drugs, speak out. You will stop them putting innocent lives in danger, and you may stop them going to jail.”
The report advises people concerned about a drug-driver to ‘talk to them in a friendly way, explaining why it’s a seriously bad idea to get behind the wheel’. If that fails, try offering a taxi, walk them home or – in extreme cases – confiscate their keys.
Drugs are said to effect reaction times, hazard perception, confidence, coordination and can even make the user sleepy or see hallucinations. 200 deaths are reportedly caused by drug driving every year.
Police officers will no longer have to prove impairment from March 2015 after a change to the law comes into effect. Roadside drug testing will take place instead.
Motorists will be slapped with up to a six month jail sentence, up to a £5,000 fine and an automatic 12-month driving ban if they test positive for legal and illegal drugs.