New Drug-Driving Law changes come into force March 2015

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Drink and drug-driving regulations have tightened up recently.  We reported on Scotland's tougher drink-driving law last December, and on the 2nd March, the government  brought in additional regulations covering drug use and driving. Drivers will all have heard of the 'breathalyser' test, or maybe even been subject to one, but now there is also the 'drugalyser' which police can use to screen for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. Officers will also be able to test for these and other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check, where you may be asked to perform a 'field impairment assessment' - a series of tests including walking in a straight line .
drug-driving prescription drugs

Importantly, as well as the expected illegal drugs, some legal prescription drugs are included in the new law. Drivers face prosecution if they exceed limits set for the presence of eight illegal drugs, including cannabis and cocaine, and eight prescription drugs.

The law states that it’s illegal to drive if either:

  • you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs;
  • you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they haven’t affected your driving).2

Changes to the law covering legally prescribed drugs currently apply to England and Wales only.  Concerns from various quarters have been raised about how they will impact people who are taking any of the listed legal drugs prescribed by their doctor:

  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

The government's website states that you can drive after taking these drugs if:

  • you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional;
  • they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits.

It also advises you to "talk to your doctor about whether you should drive" if you’ve been prescribed any of the drugs on the list.

Penalties for drug-driving are severe, and convicted persons will face significant rise in car insurance costs after the mandatory minimum one year driving ban.

For further information on the new regulations consult : Drugs and driving: the law