Driving under the influence of drugs: Changes to the law

07 March


Do you know the new changes to the law regarding drug-driving?

A single police roadside test a few months ago found 900 motorists were driving under the influence of drugs. Police found almost 50% of those tested were unfit to drive because of the drugs they had taken.

The shocking results of the police campaign were revealed last month. They followed a little-known change in the law concerning drug driving last year.


The new law now imposes a very low limit for 17 different drugs. Some are obvious illegal substances like cannabis, cocaine and ecstacy; but mostly they are legal prescription drugs, like severe pain-killers, sedatives and epilepsy treatments. Immediate roadside tests are now available for police to test for these in your system.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said at the time: “I want to remove dangerous drivers from our roads, including those who think it’s acceptable to drive under the influence of drugs.”

The new hard line by the authorities has highlighted how common drug driving has become. Some areas have seen arrests soar but the clampdown has been uneven. Other regional police forces have been unwilling to pay for the roadside testing kits, while the law in Scotland, for example, hasn’t been changed at all.

How does this affect Britain’s professional drivers and fleet operators?

It’s clearly important to realise how common drug driving is and that those arrested have been from all age groups. Drug driving is obviously a safety matter. An estimated 200 deaths a year are related to drug driving.


But the issue also brings the risk of serious legal consequences. The minimum penalties are now a one-year driving ban, up to six months in jail and an unlimited fine. There is also the reputation of your business to consider.

Do you know the new driving limits?

How can you ensure none of your company drivers are unwittingly breaking the new drug driving limits? Surveys have found the vast majority of fleet drivers don’t fully understand the new law and its implications. The government’s Think! Road safety team has free posters and a video about the new drug limits. 

Remember that you don't have to be on illegal drugs to be impaired to drive – prescription or over-the-counter medicines can also impair your ability. If you’re taking any of the following medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before driving:

Amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline; clonazepam; diazepam; flunitrazepam; lorazepam; methadone; morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl; oxazepam; temazepam.

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