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Driving & Drugs

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 13 Jul 2016 | comments*Discuss
Drug-driving Drugs Criminal Record

If asked what the most dangerous thing is that a motorist can do, it’s likely that most people would list speeding and drink driving - but how many would think of drivers who have taken drugs before getting into, and driving a car?

Under the Road Traffic Act 1972, it's an offence to drive a vehicle while Under the Influence of Drink or drugs – and we hear so much about drink driving that it’s easy to forget that drug-driving is a big problem too.

A lot more widespread than you might think – drug-driving has become such a problem over recent years that since 2003 there has been an active campaign from the UK department of transport to try and hit home the 'Don't drug drive' message.

Several magazine and newspaper articles have brought to light startling statistics that show that a significant proportion of 18-35 year olds regularly drive with drugs in their system, and even more worryingly, many of them regularly take drugs then drive a car containing other passengers. It was discovered during a survey in 2006* that young people are more likely to be driven by someone who has been taking drugs than by someone who has been drinking.

Even if you don’t take recreational drugs, don’t think that this could never apply to you - the law doesn’t just apply to illegal drugs – read the label on any medicine you buy carefully. People find themselves on the wrong side of the law every day for driving while taking prescription medicines that have impaired their driving.

What happens if a Police Officer Suspects that a Motorist is Drug-Driving?

Roadside tests or FIT (Field Impairment Tests) originated in the USA and have been used successfully there for many years. Introduced to the UK to allow officers to be able to find and confirm impairment among drivers, the concept behind them is simple:

Driving is a multi-tasking operation that requires attention to be paid to several different areas and calls into practice several different skills such as: the ability to make quick decisions, good judgement, short term memory and handling information, as well as physical requirements such as clear vision, and muscle control. The test involves simple tasks that require concentration and demonstration of the factors mentioned earlier - something that should not be difficult for drug free drivers, but can be impossible for those under the influence.

The police officer carrying out the test will make an informed decision based on the motorist's ability to complete the tasks, as to whether or not the person is fit to drive. They can even make an educated assessment of which drug the driver is taking, depending on how they perform.

If the police officer is convinced that the motorist is under the influence of drugs then they have the power to arrest the driver for committing an offence contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988.

What are the Punishments for Drug-Driving?

If caught 'drug-driving', the penalties include:

  • Six months in prison
  • £5,000 fine
  • Banned from driving for 12 months

Additionally, being convicted of drug-driving can also affect you in not so obvious ways. You will have a criminal record, which can cause problems if you want to hire a car, work with children, or obtain a travel VISA to the USA or other countries. And that’s assuming that you were stopped and convicted without being involved in an accident, or causing someone injury – in which case the legal ramifications can be much, much worse.

How can Different Drugs affect a Motorist?

Cannabis or marijuana: lack of concentration, reaction times can suffer. mild hallucinations can occur, and paranoia can cause mistakes. If mixed with alcohol, effects can be worse.

Ecstasy: A stimulant, ecstasy has hallucinogenic effects which distort vision, sound and motor functions, lack of concentration is dangerous and reaction times are slowed.

Cocaine: Also a stimulant, so the above applies, as does the chances of misjudging the distance needed to safely stop and safe driving speeds. Known to increase confidence with a sense of infallibility, using cocaine can also lead to dangerous and aggressive driving.

LSD: Hallucinogenic which due to it affecting the senses and those under the influence seeing and hearing things that aren't there, is one of the most dangerous drugs to take if driving. The chances of being involved in an accident while 'tripping' are extremely high.

If you are taking prescription drugs, or any type of new medicine, make sure that you read the label and make sure it isn’t going to impair your driving ability. If it might – play it safe and take a taxi.

* Survey carried out in 2005 by the RAC Foundation and Max Power Magazine in which 474 readers were surveyed.

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I've been caught drink driving on a revoked license, it is my first afence does anyone know what could happen?
JWC - 13-Jul-16 @ 1:05 PM
@Jk101. No, you should inform the insurance company about this.
NoPenaltyPoints - 16-Jun-15 @ 9:37 AM
Hi I was banned from driving for 4 months. For driving a car that was insured. I had no licence, I have never held a licence. I am now over that ban and im due to receive my provisional license soon. Do i need to inform the insurance company of my ban or because i had no licence at the time does it not count ? cheers
jk101 - 10-Jun-15 @ 6:24 PM
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