Drugs and Driving
Changes to the Law, March 2015
Currently it is illegal to drive if either:
- The driver is unfit to drive because they are using legal or illegal drugs
The current offence of driving whilst impaired through drugs (section 4 of the Road Traffic At 1988) will remain in force.
From 2nd March 2015 a new offence of driving with certain specific controlled drugs in excess of specified blood levels will come into force. This means that it will be illegal in England and Wales to drive with specified illegal or legal drugs in the blood even if apparently fit to drive.
Currently it is illegal to drive if either: The driver is unfit to drive because they are using legal or illegal drugs The current offence of driving whilst impaired through drugs (section 4 of the Road Traffic At 1988) will remain in force.
The new offence refers to driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of a vehicle with a specific controlled drug in the body, in excess of a specified limit. The new law sets very low limits for eight drugs associated with illegal drug use. It also includes eight prescription medicines that are sometimes abused.
Cannabis (THC/Tetrahydrocannibinol) MDMA (ecstasy)
Ketamine Methylamphetamine Cocaine
BZE (Benzoylecgonine) LSD
Clonazepam Diazepam Flutrazepam Lorazepam Oxazepam Temazepam Morphine Methadone
Penalties for drug driving convictions:-
- a minimum 1 year driving ban
- a fine of up to £5,000
- up to a year in prison
- a criminal record
- up to 14 years’ imprisonment if causing death by dangerous driving
- driving licence record for 11 years
- car insurance costs will increase significantly
- if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
- difficulty travelling to countries like the USA
How will the Police test for drug use?
If the police stop you and think you’re on drugs they can carry out a ‘Field Impairment Test’. This is a series of tests, which provide reliable indications of impairment.
Road side or custody based drug screening devices will be used to take samples of saliva to identify if a person driving or in control of a vehicle has taken a drug as listed above. Following a positive screening result, the person can then be requested to provide a blood or urine sample for evidential purpose, to enable a prosecution.
Drivers who are investigated for drug driving and are found to have a blood level higher than that specified in the regulations may be entitled to raise a statutory ‘medical defence’ if:-
- The drug was lawfully prescribed or purchased over the counter for medical or dental purposes; and
- The drug was taken in accordance with the advice given by the prescriber or accompanying written instructions.
However, a person could be prosecuted if:-
- they drive with certain levels of these drugs in their body if they haven’t been prescribed them
- the police had evidence that driving was impaired due to drugs, whether prescribed or not, under the existing offence of driving whilst impaired.
If drivers regularly use any of the prescribed medications listed, it would be helpful to carry evidence with them.
It is the responsibility of the driver to consider whether they believe their driving is, or may be, impaired on any given occasion and decide if they are fit to drive or not. Symptoms may include sleepiness, poor co-ordination, impaired or slow thinking, dizziness or sight problems.
- Talk to their doctor about their medications and driving
- Check the written advice leaflet enclosed with medicines
- Not take medication not prescribed to them
- Not take illegal drugs
If in doubt, you should not drive.
For more information go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/drug-driving