The new law was brought in on March 2 last year and introduced specific limits for 17 both legal and illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine.
Since the introduction of the law the number of drug drive arrests on Merseyside has almost trebled from 110 in 2014 to 325 in 2015. In December there were 66 drugs arrests and so far this year over 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of drug driving with figures for 2016 expected to well exceed last year’s figures.
Drugs were detected in 98% of the samples submitted to the forensic labs in 2015 and a total of 73% of drivers were prosecuted.
The penalties for drug driving are the same as for drink-driving. If you are convicted you will receive a minimum 12-month driving ban; a criminal record and a large fine or up to six months in prison or both.
During March the road safety charity THINK! are sponsoring a national campaign, backed by Merseyside Police, aimed at highlighting the issue of drug driving targeting those most likely to drug drive – young males aged between 17 and 34.
Since the law changed the police have adopted roadside drug tests and drug swabs as an enforcement tool.
Sergeant Paul Mountford said: “The new legislation has not only led to the removal from our roads of those drivers who drive under the influence of drugs, thereby reducing the risk of road accidents where people could be killed or seriously injured, but also impacts on criminal activity and movement.
“In the same way that drink driving can affect you, driving while under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect your driving skills in a number of ways.
“You don’t have to be on illegal drugs to be impaired to drive – prescription or over-the-counter medicines can also impair your ability to drive. If you’re taking medicines, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional before driving.
“As always officers will be carrying out roadside checks on people the suspect of drug driving. Our advice would be – do not drive if you feel drowsy, dizzy, unable to concentrate or make decisions, or if you have blurred or double vision and do not accept a lift from a driver you know has taken drugs.”
More information on the dangers of drug driving can be found at www.think.direct.gov.uk
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