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New Drug Driving Laws Catch 19 In Nine Days

By raccars Published

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A new law against driving while under the influence of drugs was introduced this month and has, arguably, been very successful already. Police have caught an average two drivers per day, making 19 arrests within the first nine days of the law coming into effect.

On 2 March, police were given new roadside testing kits or 'drugalysers' to catch offenders breaking new limits for the consumption of both legal and illegal drugs while driving. Of the 19 arrests, 17 of those were for cannabis use and two were for cocaine. Offenders were overwhelmingly male and under the age of 30.

Sussex police have been particularly rabid, arresting eight drivers already for using cannabis and driving. All the offenders were tested by the 'drugalysers,' which work by analysing a swab taken from the inside of the mouth. This can test for cocaine and cannabis on the spot, while officers can perform tests for other drugs, such as ecstasy, heroin, ketamine or LSD at a police station. The scope of the roadside testing is expected to be expanded shortly.

Arrests were also made by police forces in Greater Manchester, London, South Yorkshire and Suffolk. The new legislation allows police to prosecute drivers for breaking drug driving limits without having to prove they are unfit to drive. Those convicted will receive a fine of a maximum £5,000, will lose their licence for at least a year and could potentially be sentenced to a year in prison and a criminal record. Driving licence records will also retain the offence. In a worst case scenario, a charge of causing death by dangerous driving could result in a 14 year prison sentence.

The law applies to eight prescription drugs, most of which are used to treat anxiety, insomnia and pain, such as morphine, but the legal limit used is higher than the dose usually prescribed by a doctor in order to catch those abusing medicinal drugs, rather than taking them for genuine reasons and as directed. Heroin substitute, methadone, is also one of the prescription drugs included in the law. Eight illegal drugs are also included in the legislation, which applies to drivers in England and Wales.

The new law has been introduced as a result of evidence showing that driving while under the influence of drugs slows driver reactions, affects concentration and can lead to erratic behaviour behind the wheel. Police forces have urged people to contact them if they believe someone they know is driving after taking drugs.

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