A new law has come into force to help police detect and prosecute drug drivers.
The new offence – ‘driving with certain drugs above specified limits’ – aims to clampdown on those driving under the influence of drugs.
Drug-driving is as serious an issue as drink-drivingMotor Patrols Chief Inspector John Heckels
Officers are able to stop any driver suspected of drug driving with a test being carried out using a specialist roadside kit developed by Blyth-based Dräger which tests a driver’s saliva.
Anyone caught faces a minimum one year driving ban, a fine up to £5,000, a potential prison sentence and a conviction on their licence for 11 years.
Motor Patrols Chief Inspector John Heckels said: “A driver under the influence of drugs puts everyone on the roads at risk.
“Drug driving is as serious an issue as drink driving.
“The new legislation will be a great help. It brings drug driving limits in line with the drink drive laws and police now have a specific measurable limit to test those suspected of drug driving against.
“Officers will be equipped with the new kit and the new legislation, so anyone who does take drugs and then gets behind the wheel should be warned that officers are on the look for them.”
“We are not looking to catch people who take prescribed drugs out, that is not what this new legislation is about.
“It has been introduced to help officers take action against a minority who wrongly think it’s acceptable to take drugs and get behind the wheel of their car.
Although the aim is to catch drivers who use recreational drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ketamine and ecstasy, a number of prescription drugs – such as Clonazepam, Diazepam, Flunitrazepam, Lorazepam, Oxazepam, Temazepam, Methadone and Morphine – are included within the new law.
Drivers who are prescribed these drugs should be aware of the new legislation and speak with their GP if they have any concerns.
Mark Burrup, Dräger regional segment manager, said: “We are delighted to receive Home Office approval for roadside usage of the Dräger DrugTest 5000.
“As new legislation comes into place, the DrugTest 5000 will have an important role to play in reducing the number of drug-drivers on the road and the impact they have on the safety of others.”
North Shields-based motor offence specialist MotoPro are urging people who use prescribed medication to check with their doctor to ensure they will not be found driving over the limit.
Jennifer Close, head of MotoPro at TLW Solicitors, said: “As well as catching more of those driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs, the new legislation will include some prescription medicines, many of which will not even impair your driving ability.
“The new drug driving law simply creates an offence to drive a motor vehicle whilst you have the drugs named in your system above the legal limit.
“Although most patients should still be safe to drive, it is wise to check with your pharmacist to ensure whilst you are taking your medicines as directed it won’t put you over the legal limit to drive.
“Although the levels for the prescription drugs have been set a lot higher than those of illegal substances, it is worrying that there is a lack of awareness amongst the public that these prescription medicines can have a negative impact on your ability to drive safely.”