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 has now been 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 has introduced 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 are now set in law but are based on the findings of a report from a panel of medical and scientific experts.
IAM RoadSmart recommendations
- IAM RoadSmart 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
- IAM RoadSmart believes the report of the expert panel raised important questions which the Department for Transport, Home Office and medical experts must continue to research to reassure the driving public that drug limits have been correctly set and fairly enforced. These include;
- 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 in the light of experience?
- 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 sustained 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?
- How soon can all drugs be tested for in roadside and police station equipment?
The implementation of drug limits and new equipment in Scotland is long overdue and should be brought forward as a priority by the Scottish Government.