Dealing out advice on the dangers of drug driving

8 Jan 2019

Somerset County Council’s road safety team is highlighting the dangers posed by driving under the influence of drugs.

Drugs can have a number of adverse effects on driving style including slower reaction times, blurred vision, increased risk taking, reduced coordination and concentration, and an inability to judge distances and speeds properly.

In 2015 there were 62 fatalities on UK roads attributed to driving under the influence of drugs, although the true figure could be much higher. It was also in this year that the law on drug driving in England and Wales changed making it an offence to drive on a number of illegal drugs and prescription medications.

Prior to this change in the law driving on any of these substances was only a crime if there was evidence of impaired driving.

The police have the power to stop motorists believed to be under the influence of drugs and make them do a ‘field impairment assessment’. Roadside drug testing devices have been introduced allowing officers to test for cocaine and cannabis just as easily as for alcohol; leading to significantly more drug drivers being prosecuted.

Drivers should be aware that it’s not just illegal drugs that cause impairment. Many prescription medications can cause drowsiness and slowed reaction times. Drug driving laws cover a number of prescribed drugs and so the road safety team advise to always read the label before taking any medication and checking with your doctor if prescribed any of the following:

  • amphetamine, e.g. dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, e.g. codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

If you’re convicted of drug driving the penalties are severe:

  • a minimum 1 year driving ban
  • an unlimited fine
  • up to 6 months in prison
  • a criminal record

Beyond the legal consequences, a drug drive conviction can have far reaching effects on your life including job loss, problems finding new employment, an increase in car insurance costs and difficulty getting a visa or work permit to travel abroad.

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