Although the new drug driving law has been in operation for over a month a recent survey has revealed that more than half of UK drivers remain confused.
The new law came into force on March 2nd this year, following an independent review in 2010 by Sir Peter North into drink and drug driving laws. Restrictions are now in place on 16 drugs and drivers who break the new law face a minimum one-year driving ban and fines of up to £5,000.
For an offence to be proven under the previous law it was necessary to show that the accused driver was “impaired as to be so unfit to drive” and that the impairment was caused by drugs. Police had to prove this impairment on a case-by-case basis, often requiring police surgeons to take blood samples which were then analysed for evidence of drugs.
Under the new offence, police can test drivers for the presence of drugs in their body using “drugalyser” kits at the roadside. Drivers will be guilty of an offence if, when tested, the proportion of drugs in their body exceeds the limit specified for that drug under the new law. Scientific research has identified that drugs can, among other things, impair a driver’s ability to correctly judge speed and distances so reducing the risk of road traffic accidents is at the heart of what the new law aims to achieve.
What is contributing to the confusion among UK drivers, however, is the fact that prosecutions can be brought for excessive levels of prescription drugs, not just illegal drugs. Indeed, eight of the 16 restricted drugs under the new law are available on prescription. Many of these are commonly prescribed for pain relief or anxiety so drivers taking them under doctor’s orders could be forgiven for being confused as to whether the new law means they are at risk of prosecution.
Restricted Prescription Drugs
The eight prescription drugs that are restricted under the new law, together with the prescribed limits for each drug, are:
1. clonazepam, 50 µg/L
2. diazepam, 550 µg/L
3. flunitrazepam, 300 µg/L
4. lorazepam, 100 µg/L
5. methadone, 500 µg/L
6. morphine, 80 µg/L
7. oxazepam, 300 µg/L
8. temazepam, 1000 µg/L
Drivers who take prescription drugs to address a health issue may wish to keep hold of the leaflets just in case.
Guidance given by the Department for Transport in 2014 suggests patients should keep with them while driving “evidence that they are taking the controlled drug as medicine prescribed or supplied by a health care professional, or bought over the counter and taken in accordance with the leaflet accompanying the medicine in case that patient was ever stopped by the police”.
The survey into UK driver attitudes on the new drug driving law was carried out by Insurance Revolution who also found that, despite the confusion, over a quarter of drivers thought the new law would help reduce the number of accidents.
In addition, 38% of those surveyed thought that the new offence doesn’t go far enough in terms of the repercussions for people caught driving under the influence of drugs.
Also see: UK Drivers to Face Roadside Drug Tests
Jane Cooper is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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 get back to you.
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