The government has unveiled tough new proposals aimed at cracking down on those who take drugs and then get behind the wheel, paving the way for Britain’s first drug-driving limits.
Police officers could soon have the power to prosecute a driver found to have more than a trace of any one of eight illegal and eight legal drugs in their bloodstream.
Under the new proposed legislation, drivers who take their drug use on the road would be carted off to a police station to undertake the new drug test. ‘Drugalyser’ road-side testing devices are expected to be brought in next year to make the process more efficient.Current law states drug-driving is only an offence if police can prove driving ability is impaired
The eight illegal drugs on the list are benzoylecgonine, cannabis, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, LSD, methamphetamine, and 6-MAM (heroin and diamorphine).
“Drug driving is a menace which devastates families and ruins lives,” transport secretary Richard Hammond said. “That is why we are proposing to take a zero tolerance approach with those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs and sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”
A further eight controlled drugs used for medicinal purposes such as anxiety and insomnia will also be tested for at the roadside: Morphine, diazepam, oxazepam, flunitrazepam (aka Rohypnol), clonazepam, lorezapam and temazepam. Said tests will respect a threshold based on medical advice to avoid unfair prosecutions.
“We know that the vast majority of people who use these drugs are doing so responsibly and safely and that is why our approach does not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed medicines,” Hammond explained.
Current law states drug-driving is only an offence if police can prove driving ability is impaired, a system that means using a road-side co-ordination test known as a ‘Field Impairment Assessment’ ─ think walking in a straight line and checking pupil size. If a driver fails the test, he or she is taken back to the station for a blood test.
Being caught drug-driving is punishable by a minimum driving ban of one year, a fine up to £5,000, a criminal record that stays on your file for 11 years, the potential to lose your job and increased car insurance costs. Causing death by dangerous driving carries a prison sentence up to 14 years.
In 2011, ‘impairment by drugs’ contributed to 1,012 casualties including 54 deaths ─ 3 per cent of all fatal road incidents in Great Britain.