24 February 2015
UK Drivers to Face Roadside Drug Tests
From next month new legislation will allow Police to test drivers for specific levels of illegal and prescription drugs.
Under the new system, drivers will have their saliva tested with “drugalyser” kits to determine the presence of illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. Currently, other substances such as heroin and ketamine as well as prescription drugs can only be detected by blood tests.
Although the effects of illegal unregulated drugs on driving ability can be unpredictable, research has identified a number of likely common effects. These include reduced reaction times, tiredness, over-confidence and an inability to accurately judge speeds and distances, all of which can obviously lead to potential Road Traffic Accidents.
The UK Government has confirmed that trials are underway that will eventually lead to roadside tests for all drugs being introduced.
Drivers who are found to be under the influence of either illegal drugs or high levels of legal medication such as diazepam, clonazepam, oxazepam and temazepam, which are used to treat pain, anxiety and insomnia, could face fines of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment.
Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can impair people’s ability to drive safely as they can cause drowsiness and affect coordination, vision, reaction times and concentration.
The Crime and Courts Act 2013 makes it illegal to drive with one or more specified drugs above a certain limit. At present, drug driving convictions are notoriously low due to police having to prove driver impairment but HM Government believes prosecution levels could rise where there is indisputable evidence of the presence of drugs in a driver’s blood.
Under the new legislation, drivers can have slightly higher levels of prescription drugs in their system than prescribed by doctors and pharmacists. Ministers claim the new measures will only target people who abuse prescription drugs rather than those with chronic conditions.
Cheshire, North Yorkshire and Sussex police forces have been using a common drug testing kit, the Drager 5000, in police stations for the past 10 months.
The Securetec Drug Wipe 35, which can detect cocaine and cannabis, will be used for roadside tests by other police forces from next month.
In the UK, it is an offence to drive while impaired by drugs. The police are allowed to stop and breathalyse anyone they suspect of drink or drug-driving. They can also test for alcohol or drugs when a driver is stopped for other offences or if they are involved in a road accident.
Drivers can be charged with driving while impaired by drugs whether the drugs in their system are illegal or not.
Deborah Johnson is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers specialising in Road Traffic Accident claims.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for people injured in road traffic accidents through no fault of their own. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help.
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