Policy - drugs and driving

Drugs and driving

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Estimates suggest as many as 200 drug driving related deaths occur every year in GB. Surveys suggest that one in ten young male drivers have driven under the influence of cannabis, and 370,000 have driven under the influence of class A drugs.

Many drug users simply do not believe that their driving is affected by the drugs they are taking, and in some cases they believe it enhances driving skill. Many habitual drug users continue to use a car as part of the everyday routine of their lives.

New drug testing equipment is now being tested and approved by the Home Office for use in police stations and this will allow quick and accurate detection of a range of drugs. To reflect these advances in technology, the government is introducing a new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified controlled drug in the body. The details of the limits for drug driving have still to be set in law but will be led by a recently published report of a panel of medical and scientific experts.

IAM recommendations

  • The IAM welcomes the new legislation and the general approach of setting a limit and testing to it. This is in line with the well understood approach adopted for alcohol
  • A set of limits and a proven machine to analyse them in every police station will reduce the time taken to process drugged drivers. These time and money savings should be used to increase high profile enforcement patrols
  • The IAM believes the report of the expert panel raises important questions which the Department for Transport, Home Office and medical experts must answer to reassure the driving public that drug limits have been correctly set and can be fairly enforced. These include;
    • Are ‘risk thresholds’ rather than fully tested measures of impairment the right approach to finding a measure of impairment to drive?
    • Should field impairment testing still be available as a screening tool?
    • Will the police be able to safely and consistently deal with these issues at the roadside and in a busy police station environment?
    • Are there sufficient traffic police numbers to deal with this new approach?
    • Are the new drugalyser machines accurate enough to implement the thresholds?
    • Have the limits for alcohol and drugs been correctly set?
    • Can those taking prescription drugs be confident that they won’t be caught out by the new limits?
    • Have government departments set aside sufficient resources for a comprehensive education and information campaign to explain the new limits?
    • What plans do the government have to support the expert panel recommendations for more research including routine blood sample taking at crashes?
    • What safeguards will be in place for those who wish to challenge the drugalyser?
    • Do we need more research before setting new legislation?
    • Are sufficient resources available to educate drug users on the risks they take in continuing to use their cars whilst taking drugs?

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