Drugs and driving, drivers under the influence are easy to spot, right?

Blog post posted on 04/04/17 |

I recently came across some stats regarding drug driving convictions and noticed a worrying trend starting to appear.  This led me to wonder why this could be happening and if the wider driving community is clear on new laws governing this area.  

In March 2015, legislation was changed to make it easier for police to convict drivers who drive under the influence of drugs. Police can now stop and search motorists at any time, so long as they are acting "in the execution of their duty".

Previously, tests involved not only proving that a driver was under the influence of drugs, but also that their driving was impaired. All drivers/riders must be aware 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, anxiety, coughs, colds and insomnia.  I wondered if this is publicised enough and is it possible drivers are driving illegally whilst taking prescribed medication for everyday ailments. 

There are many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications which impair your ability to drive safely, with some causing drowsiness, vision impairment, as well as a loss of concentration and slow reaction times. I think it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist and read the label of any prescription drugs you take before getting behind the wheel.

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 inform the DVLA and keep your prescription note in the vehicle.

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

It's important to note that the limits are not set at zero, as drugs taken for medical conditions can be absorbed in the body to produce trace effects (suggesting a very small amount will still remain in the body).

Different drugs are broken down at different speeds, which is reflected in the varying limits, expressed in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L). 

Illegal drugs

  • Benzoylecgonine, 50 µg/L (Contained in cocaine)
  • Cocaine, 10 µg/L
  • Delta–9–Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis and cannabinol), 2 µg/L
  • Ketamine, 20 µg/L
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 1 µg/L
  • Methylamphetamine - 10 µg/L
  • Methylenedioxymethaphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy), 10 µg/L
  • 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and morphine), 5 µg/L

If you're convicted of drug-driving you can expect to get:

  • a minimum one-year driving ban
  • up to six months in prison
  • a criminal record an
  • unlimited fine

Your licence will show you’ve been convicted for drug-driving, which will last for 11 years.

You will most likely see your car insurance costs rise significantly, and may have trouble travelling to certain countries like Australia and the USA.

We at IAM Roadsmart continue to support anti-drug drive messages and encourage the adoption of a Drug Driving rehabilitation course for offender.  It is clear from the recent stats regarding drug driving offences there is more work for us to do.

Christopher Davies, IAM RoadSmart DRA Project Leader