New Drug Drive Legislation Comes Into Force
A new drug drive law comes into force in England and Wales today, Monday, 2 March that will make it easier for police to tackle drug drivers.
From today it will be illegal to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body.
These limits are set at very low levels for eight illegal drugs, including cannabis and cocaine and eight medicines that have been set at a higher limit.
Sergeant Paul Mountford from Merseyside Police Roads Policing Unit said: “This new law states that it is an offence to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body, whether you’re driving impaired or not.
“As with alcohol, drugs do impair your ability to drive and is just as unacceptable. A drug drive conviction will have a serious effect on your life including a criminal record, a minimum 12 month driving ban and a fine of up to £5000. It could also cost you your job.”
When a suspected driver is first stopped at the roadside, the officer will firstly require an alcohol breath test. If the result is negative, but there is evidence, or the officer suspects the driver of taking drugs, he or she will be asked to undertake a roadside drug impairment test (FIT).
If the evidence is sufficient, the officer may arrest the driver for impaired driving. At the police station the driver will be required to provide a preliminary saliva drug test.
Merseyside Police has been one of a number of forces who have equipped their custody suites with a device to test suspected drug drivers. If the test result is positive, a blood or urine sample is taken, with no need to call a doctor to confirm the presence of a condition due to drugs.
“This saves valuable time in obtaining the evidential sample, provides a more straightforward process and reduces the time that officers spend in custody suites.
“The new legislation also complements our existing powers and, as with drink driving, there is a ‘screening’ process, which could be either a ‘FIT’ test or use of drug testing wipes or drug testing machine we now have in custody. Blood is still required to be taken following the screening to be able to prove the offence.
“Our main aim across Merseyside is to improve the safety of road users and this legislation provides us with an additional tool to help us with this task. As with drink driving, our advice is simple, just do not drive if you have taken drugs”
Drugs and driving: the law
It’s illegal to drive if either:
- you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs
- you have certain levels of certain drugs in your blood (even if they haven’t affected your driving)
Legal drugs are prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.
If the police stop you and think you’re on drugs they can do a ‘field impairment assessment’. This is a series of tests, like asking you to walk in a straight line.
If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station. You could be charged with a crime if the test shows you’ve taken drugs.
Prescription medicines from March 2015
From March 2015 it will be illegal in England and Wales to drive with certain illegal drugs in the blood, even if you’re not unfit to drive.
It will also be illegal to drive with certain levels of certain legal drugs if you’re unfit to drive.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the following drugs:
- morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs
You can drive after taking these drugs if:
- you have been prescribed them and advised how to take them by a healthcare professional
- they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive
You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you haven’t been prescribed them.
The law doesn’t cover Northern Ireland and Scotland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.
Penalties for drug driving
If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get:
- a minimum 1 year driving ban
- a fine of up to £5,000
- up to a year in prison
- a criminal record
Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.
The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Other problems you could face
A conviction for drug driving also means:
- your car insurance costs will increase significantly
- if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
- you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA
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