Road traffic Police will now carry roadside testing kits which can test for the presence of cocaine and THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis). Drivers suspected of driving whilst under the influence of drugs will be arrested and quickly taken to a nearby police station for a blood test. The penalty for a drug driving conviction is a minimum 1 year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, up to 6 months in prison and a criminal record.
The new laws set out extremely low limits for the presence of illegal drugs which is, in effect, a “zero-tolerance” approach. The blood limits for heroin, ketamine, THC and cocaine are so low that they are almost certain to be detected in a user long after any impairment to their driving ability has worn off. Any exposure to these drugs would render a driver over the limit for potentially up to 36 hours after their effects had worn off.
These drug driving laws have also introduced new limits on eight prescription drugs. The levels of these legal drugs that are allowed in the blood are likely to imply current impairment. The disparity, perhaps unsurprisingly, between the two classes of drug driving is a clear indication that the main targets of these new laws are illegal drug users.
Drivers using prescribed medication should check their prescription and carry proof at all times so that it can be provided at the roadside if required. The prescribed drugs that can be tested for are; clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, tamazepam, methodone and morphine. The legislation places the onus on the individual to assure themselves that their driving is not impaired. If in doubt, talk to your Pharmacist, Doctor or Healthcare professional about your medication. If you do find yourself charged with an offence of drug driving it is extremely important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.