Drivers caught driving under the influence of drugs could be forced to complete rehabilitation courses before their ban is lifted under a new government crackdown.
Ministers have called for penalties for drug drivers to be changed in a bid to tackle a so-called “underestimated social problem” that has been growing in recent years.
Drug-driving lawsuits have risen from nearly 1,500 in 2015 to around 13,700 in 2020, reflecting the growing scale of the problem.
Records for the previous year indicate that more than two in five convicted drug drivers are repeat offenders.
Tackling repeat drug-driving offenders: The government has called for the introduction of mandatory rehabilitation courses for drivers convicted of drug-driving
The government enacted new law in March 2015 allowing police to conduct roadside drug tests on suspected offenders, using roadside oral saliva drug testing kits – or “drug testers”.
It is now a criminal offense to drive with any of the 17 controlled drugs above a certain level in your blood – this includes illicit and medicinal drugs, with limits for illicit substances being extremely low but with some tolerance for ‘unintentional exposure’ such as B. Passive smoking. Prescription drug limits are higher.
Officers can test for cannabis and cocaine at the curb and look for other drugs at the police station, including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin.
Even drivers who pass curbside checkpoints can be arrested if police suspect their ability to drive is impaired by drugs, e.g. B. when they cannot walk in a straight line when asked.
Current rules dictate that anyone convicted of drug driving faces at least a year’s driving ban in addition to an unlimited fine.
Worse, they could be sentenced to up to six months in prison, with the offense recorded on both their criminal records and their driver’s license – the latter for 11 years.
Those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving under the influence can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
In 2020, about 713 people were seriously injured in drug-driving collisions, up from 499 in 2016 – a 43% increase. Police have been able to conduct roadside drug testing for less than a decade
Today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed a call for evidence to support plans to make it harder for repeat offenders to get back on the road.
It would introduce an obligation for drug offenders to complete rehabilitation courses, similar to the non-compulsory courses offered for drunk driving.
Alcohol-related deaths and injuries on Britain’s roads are now “very rare”, according to the Department for Transport, with accident rates falling by 88 per cent between 1979 and 2015.
However, according to the latest DfT data, an estimated 220 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2020. They also accounted for more than 15 percent of road fatalities – up from 13.1 percent last year – making it the highest death toll since 2009.
The 17 drugs tested by the police
Police can use these curbside “drug testers” to test for cannabis and cocaine at the curb, while others are tested through screening at police stations
Benzoylecgonine (cocaine) – 50 micrograms per liter of blood (µg/L)
cocaine – 10 µg/l
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Cannabis and Cannabinol) – 2 µg/l
ketamine – 20 µg/l
LSD – 1 µg/l
methylamphetamine – 10 µg/l
MDMA (Ecstasy) – 10 µg/l
heroin and diamorphine – 5 µg/l
clonazepam (used to treat seizures and panic disorders) – 50 mcg/l
diazepam (Anti-Anxiety) – 550 µg/L
flunitrazepam (Rohypnol – Sedative) – 300 µg/L
Lorazepam (Anti-Anxiety) – 100 µg/L
methadone (Heroin Substitute) – 500 µg/L
morphine (Pain Relief) – 80 µg/L
oxazepam (Anti-Anxiety) – 300 µg/L
Temazepam (Anti-Anxiety and Sedative) – 1,000 µg/L
amphetamines (e.g. dexamphetamine, used in conditions such as ADHD) – 250 mcg/l
Drug-driving cases have also increased sharply in recent years.
In 2020, about 713 people were seriously injured in drug-driving collisions, up from 499 in 2016 — a 43 percent increase in four years.
Some police forces now say they arrest more drug drivers than drunk drivers, such is the problem.
In a statement released today, Mr Shapps said: “Drunk driving is now rightly viewed as a social taboo by most of us in this country and we have worked hard to reduce the number of drink-driving-related deaths .
“But if we are to make our roads even safer, there is no room for negligence in driving under the influence, which is why I am launching this appeal for evidence today.
“It is only right that drug drivers should undergo rehabilitation before getting back behind the wheel to help protect the public from this hidden problem and end drug driving once and for all.”
Statistics show that non-takers of optional drink-driving rehabilitation courses are more than twice as likely to commit a new drink-driving within three years. So the government hopes to bring the number down by offering high-risk drug drivers the same level of support that repeat offenders do.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of road transport policy, welcomed the proposals because “the evidence shows that this helps reduce recidivism and improve road safety”.
Professor Kim Wolff, MBE, King’s College London added: “I was delighted to see the launch of the consultation on a High-Risk Offender (HRO) Scheme for Drug Drivers and the Drug Driving Rehabilitation (DDR) course as part of a ongoing work program of the DfT to improve road safety.
“Data collected over the past 6 years has enabled the DfT, through a panel of experts, to identify high risk drug driving that justifies the need for a High Risk Offender Scheme to be introduced alongside DDR which will help improve driver behavior more generally provide societal benefits.”
The Call for Evidence launched today (Tuesday 5 April) will also ask whether we should bring the way we collect specimens into line with current medical practice by using vacuum blood extraction to reduce the risk of bloodborne viruses for healthcare professionals.
It will also seek views on the relationship between medicinal cannabis and road safety to ensure road safety policies keep pace with changing societal norms.
And later this year the government will seek opinions on other matters related to alcohol and drug driving, such as: B. not stopping after a collision and criminal use of vehicles.
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