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The Law on Drug-Driving

By Practice Group Leader, Road Traffic Defence

Despite efforts and annual campaigns to tackle drink and drug driving, many people continue to break the law when getting behind the wheel.

As road traffic defence lawyers we see lives ruined all too often, especially around the festive period when people are tempted to drive during or after a night out.

We have commissioned research asking over 2,000 motorists their thoughts and experiences on driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

To support the research we will be releasing a series of blogs which highlight the dangers of both drug driving and drink driving.

You could be hit with a one-year minimum driving ban, fines of up to £5,000 or even six months in prison if found guilty of drug driving.

Drug driving offences are not limited to just illegal drugs. It is also illegal to drive whilst under the influence of high levels of some legal medications used to treat pain, coughs, hayfever, anxiety and insomnia such as diazepam, clonazepam, oxazepam and temazepam.

There are many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications which impair your ability to drive safely as they cause drowsiness and affect coordination, vision, reaction times and concentration. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist and read the label of any prescription drugs you take.

The law on drug driving is meant to target people who abuse prescription drugs and take illegal drugs and not to punish those with chronic conditions. If you take prescription drugs for a health condition then you might want to keep your doctor’s note on your person whilst driving just in case.

If the proportion of drugs in your body exceeds the limit specified for that drug under the law when you are tested then you will be found guilty of a drug driving offence.

Some of the most common prescription drugs and their associated limits for driving are as follows:

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

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs such as heroin and ketamine can be detected by blood tests, like prescription drugs. Meanwhile, drugs such as cocaine and cannabis can be detected by roadside saliva testing kits the police can carry nicknamed ‘drugalysers’.

The law on sentencing drivers under the influence of cannabis is essentially in its infancy. The drug driving law on cannabis is similar to drink driving law, in the sense that a swab test is taken by the roadside before the driver is taken to the police station for a blood sample taken as an evidential test, if the saliva test reads positive.

Arguably the science behind testing motorists for driving under the influence of cannabis is weak. The limit is 2µg of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol, or THC which is the active compound found in cannabis, per 100ml of blood. Two µg is a low level, such that you might not be feeling or demonstrating any outward signs of intoxication from cannabis, and yet register a blood test result far exceeding this limit.

The prosecution doesn’t have to prove that your driving was impaired by cannabis but rather that the drug was in your blood. This makes driving on cannabis a big risk with a 12-month driving ban and a potential £5,000 fine and up to six month in prison.

Paul Reddy is a driving offence solicitor. He works for Slater and Gordon Lawyers from their Manchester office.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers is one of the largest and most well-known law firms in the UK. Call our motoring and driving offence solicitors on freephone 0808 175 7998 or contact us online.

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