Monday, 2 March 2015

Drug driving laws now in force

Drug driving laws are in force from today
Today new laws came into force making it a crime to drive with certain drugs in your system.  The new drug driving laws are similar to drink driving laws but there are important differences everybody needs to know.

Drug driving includes not only driving a motor vehicle but also attempting to driving and being in charge of a vehicle while you have drugs in your system.  Being in charge usually means having the keys and being in or near the vehicle.

It has been reported in the media that drug driving will be a zero tolerance offence, i.e. if any of the prohibited drugs are detected you will guilty of a crime  – one of the government’s own advisers spoke on the radio this afternoon saying just that.  But, it isn’t true.  You will be allowed to drive with some drugs in your system and the amount will depend on the drug, so the limit for cocaine is 10 microgrammes per litre of blood while for Temazepam the limit is 1,000 microgrammes per litre of blood.  

Much of the media reporting of the drug driving offence has concentrated on illegal drugs, but there are a number of prescription drugs that are directly prohibited from use before driving.  There are also a number of prescription drugs and legal highs that contain the same active ingredient as the prohibited drugs and so will produce a positive result on the drug driving test equipment.

Driving under the influence of drugs has been a crime for a very long time.  The old law prohibited driving while unfit through drugs; however, the new drug driving law makes it an offence to drive with drugs in your system regardless of whether the drug renders you unfit or not.  Some part of the media have incorrectly reported that people will not be prosecuted unless the drug renders the person unfit – that is simply not an accurate reflection of the law.

If you are taking prescription medication you must check with your doctor whether it is safe for you to drive or not as the consequences of making a mistake can be catastrophic.  Conviction will mean a driving ban and could result in a prison sentence.

In the next article we will look at the defences to drug driving allegations.

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