RAC Cars News


Drug Driving Epidemic In The UK

By raccars Published

Image Source

'Drugalyser' kits introduced in the UK earlier this year are recording an alarming number of positive tests - as high as 56% in some areas of the country. The drugs testing devices have been used by police since March, as the result of new legislation aimed at helping to catch drivers under the influence of drugs.

The tests are capable of detecting cannabis and cocaine in saliva samples instantly during roadside checks, while a more sophisticated method is under development to produce tests capable of recognising the presence of 14 legal and illegal substances. However, the rate of positive tests has already reached an average of about 50%, according to police forces in the UK. Fifty six per cent of drivers tested in South Yorkshire displayed a positive result while Scotland Yard Police have recorded a 45% positive test rate. Police in Dorset, Warwickshire and West Mercia have reported a 42% failure rate for drugalyser tests.

This is in contrast to breathalyser tests, for which the average failure rate is now down to about 5%, suggesting that motorists feel they are more likely to get away with driving after taking drugs. Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, now plans to start a campaign to make drug driving socially unacceptable, as has successfully been achieved with drink driving. According to experts, about 200 road deaths are caused by drivers under the influence of drugs every year. Eighty per cent of the drugalyser failures are due to the presence of cannabis.

The first convictions for drug driving took place within days of the introduction of the law, as a result of roadside drugalyser tests by police. One of those, a van driver, was disqualified from driving for 17 months, as well as receiving a fine of £110. He was also obliged to pay £85 in prosecution costs and a victim impact surcharge of £20.

The legislation for drug driving limits, which was introduced on 2 March, sets a low tolerance limit for eight illegal substances, including ecstasy along with cannabis and cocaine. It also sets a low permissable level for a number of prescription drugs, with a tolerance to include normally prescribed doses but to identify those who abuse the medication, which is usually used to treat anxiety or insomnia. Apart from cannabis and cocaine, laboratory testing is necessary to detect the presence of any drugs.

A drug driving conviction carries a minimum one year driving ban, a substantial fine and, potentially, a six month prison sentence.

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars