Driving under the influence of both legal and illegal drugs is an issue that is growing on all measures in the UK - collisions and casualties have gone up by over 260% over the last ten years, and convictions are increasing every year. The impact is devastating, far-reaching, and only getting worse.
This is why IAM RoadSmart is campaigning to raise awareness and drive change to stop these trends continuing.
This issue was brought to the government’s attention in 2011 following a report into drink- and drug-driving1, and while some positive changes have been made, such as roadside testing, there is still a long way to go. With 44% of
offences being committed by previous offenders2, the current punishment and rehabilitation system clearly is not working.
IAM RoadSmart is dedicated to making the roads as safe as possible for all, we have seen success with other rehabilitation courses – with speeding courses, reoffending is as low as 5% (IPSOS), and with a drink-driving course, reoffences are at 17%2. We believe a standalone drug-driving awareness course would help drastically reduce the overall number of offences and casualties and help educate drivers about the potential risks on the road.
Years of cuts to road policing, rising costs and lack of prioritisation have created an environment where offences, and deaths, can rise. Drug testing is expensive and time-intensive, and the effects are hard to police rigorously as drugs and medications are diverse – as are the reasons for taking them before driving. Therefore, as outlined in a recent report3: ‘offenders who are suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs are being tolerated and allowed to present a continuing threat to communities.’ We cannot afford to tolerate this threat any longer.
Reported Road collisions: Driver / rider impaired by illicit or medicinal drugs. Source: Department for Transport
This chart depicts the concerning trend of drug-driving related collisions and casualties in the UK over a period of 10 years.
The data reveals a steep rise in drug-driving-related incidents in the UK, indicating a growing concern for public safety.
The government needs to refocus on the issue and find an effective and sustainable solution that can address the complexities of these offences, to stop the casualties increasing any further.
We have been waiting since last summer for the government to announce the results of its own consultation entitled “Protecting the public from repeat drug-driving offenders” so that we can all work together to help drug offenders tackle their issues.
We want drug-driving to be reprioritised as a standalone issue, and we are calling for an in-depth investigation, looking at all variables of impact and underlying issues that lead to the offence - recognising that it is a distinct issue from drink-driving.
As the UK’s leading independent road safety charity, we want to work with the government and all interested parties to support the development of a rehabilitation option for drug-driving, with a particular focus on illegal substances, that is effective in reducing reoffences.
We want to work with partners, in government and the health sector, to raise awareness and advise on some of the potential outcomes that prescribed medications that can have an impact on a driver’s ability behind the wheel.
1The Government's Response to the Reports by Sir Peter North CBE QC and the Transport Select Committee on Drink and Drug Driving (2011)
2Drug driving: the tip of an iceberg? Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), February 2021
3Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) - Roads Policing Not an Option: An Inspection of Roads Policing in England and Wales (2020)