New drug driving laws are coming into effect across England and Wales from March 2nd and they’re designed to cap limits from cannabis and cocaine levels as well as monitor other dangerous drugs which can affect the safety of a driver on the road.
The laws are designed to ensure that certain levels of drugs can be monitored, as with alcohol, and will work to help keep those driving under the influence of drugs from behind the wheel and more than that, promote awareness of the dangers.
Alongside the new laws the government is also launching a targeted campaign which hopes to focus on the largest risk group, young male drivers, who are most regularly found to be driving under the influence of drugs. Men between the ages of 17 and 34 are the most likely group to be found taking drugs and driving and the Department of Transport statistics suggest that 85% of collisions where drugs were listed as a contributory factor involved male drivers. The same figures also found that 63% of all 16 to 59 year olds who reported the use of illegal substances in the last year fell into the 16 to 34 age group.
As well as illegal drugs the new legislation covers some prescription medication although the law doesn’t apply if the drug is being taken exactly as directed by a doctor. There are eight specific illegal drugs targeted by the new law with the most common illegal drugs including amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis are included.
Drug Driving: The Dangers
The effect on driving from drug use does vary dependent on the substance in question but the overriding feature of all is that they make you into a risk on the roads, both to yourself and others. Taking drugs will impair your driving skills and it can affect your driving in many ways including:
- Slow reaction times
- Erratic and aggressive decision making
- Lack of concentration
- Panic Attacks
Many of these symptoms are still present when the drugs are wearing off, especially the nausea and fatigue and therefore, it’s simply unsafe and dangerous to use drugs and drive, both illegally and those prescribed which state you shouldn’t drive.
Drug Driving: The Consequences
The penalties in place if you’re proven to be driving under the influence of drugs are the same as for drink driving. When convicted, drug driving offenders face:
- A minimum 12 month ban from driving
- A criminal record
- A fine of up to £5000
- Up to 6 months in prison
As you’d expect the consequences of these penalties are high and can result in significant changes and difficulties in the future including loss of independence and employment, increased car insurance costs and even difficulties when travelling abroad and convictions need to be declared.
All in all, it is clear drug driving is at least as dangerous as drink driving and should be treated in the same way by the authorities. Further than the consequences to the offender if convicted, there is also the human cost, the risk to other road users and the potential to cause serious injury or death. Once the new law is in place it will be interesting to see if convictions increase and if instances of drug driving fall.