Drivers caught driving under the effect of drugs could be forced to complete rehabilitation courses before their ban is lifted under a new government crackdown.
Ministers have called for penalties for drug drivers to be changed to tackle a so-called “underestimated social problem” growing in recent years.
Drug-driving lawsuits have risen from nearly 1,500 in 2015 to around 13,700 in 2020, reflecting the growing scale of the problem.
Records for the previous year indicate that more than two in five convicted drug drivers are repeat offenders.
Tackling repeat drug-driving offenders: The government has called for the introduction of mandatory rehabilitation courses for drivers convicted of drug-driving.
The government enacted a new law in March 2015 allowing police to conduct roadside drug tests on suspected offenders using roadside oral saliva drug testing kits – or “drug testers.”
It is now a criminal offense to drive with any of the 17 controlled drugs above a certain level in your blood – this includes illicit and medicinal drugs, with limits of illegal substances being shallow but with some tolerance for ‘unintentional exposure’ such as B. Passive smoking. Prescription drug limits are higher.
Officers can test for cannabis and cocaine at the curb and look for other drugs at the police station, including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine, and heroin.
Even drivers who pass curbside checkpoints can be arrested if police suspect their driving ability is impaired by drugs, e.g., B. when they cannot walk in a straight line when asked.
Current rules dictate that anyone convicted of drug driving faces at least a year’s driving ban and an unlimited fine.
Worse, they could be sentenced to up to six months in prison, with the offense recorded on both their criminal records and their driver’s license – the latter for 11 years.
Those convicted of causing death by unsafe driving under the influence can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
In 2020, about 713 people were injured in drug-driving collisions, up from 499 in 2016 – a 43% increase. Police have been able to conduct roadside drug testing for less than a decade.
Today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed a call for evidence to support plans to make it harder for repeat offenders to get back on the road.
It would introduce an obligation for drug offenders to complete rehabilitation courses, similar to the non-compulsory courses offered for drunk driving.
According to the Department for Transport, alcohol-related deaths and injuries on Britain’s roads are now “sporadic,” with accident rates falling by 88 percent between 1979 and 2015.
However, according to the latest DfT data, an estimated 220 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2020. They also accounted for more than 15 percent of road fatalities – up from 13.1 percent last year – making it the highest death toll since 2009.
Some police forces now say they arrest more drug drivers than drunk drivers. Such is the problem.
In a statement released today, Mr. Shapps said: “Drunk driving is now rightly viewed as a colonial taboo by most of us in this country, and we have labored hard to reduce the number of drink-driving-related deaths.
“But if we are to create our roads even safer, there is no room for negligence in driving under the influence, which is why I am launching this appeal for evidence today.
“It is only right that drug drivers should undergo repair before getting back behind the wheel to help protect the public from this hidden problem and end drug driving once and for all.”
Statistics show that non-takers of optional drink-driving rehabilitation courses are more than twice as likely to commit to new drink-driving within three years. So the government hopes to reduce the number by offering high-risk drug drivers the same support as repeat offenders.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of road transport policy, welcomed the proposals because “the evidence shows that this helps reduce recidivism and improve road safety.”
Professor Kim Wolff, MBE, King’s College London, added: “I was thrilled to see the launch of the talk on a High-Risk Offender (HRO) Scheme for Drug Drivers and the Drug Driving Rehabilitation (DDR) course as part of an ongoing work program of the DfT to improve road safety.
“Data collected over the past six years has enabled the DfT, through a panel of experts, to identify high-risk drug driving that justifies the need for a High-Risk Offender Scheme to be introduced alongside DDR, which will help improve driver behavior more generally provide societal benefits.”
The Call for Evidence launched today (Tuesday, 5 April) will also ask whether we should bring the way we collect specimens into line with current medical procedures by using vacuum blood extraction to reduce the risk of bloodborne viruses for healthcare professionals.
It will also seek views on the connection between medicinal cannabis and road safety to ensure policies keep pace with changing societal norms.
And later this year, the government will seek opinions on other matters related to alcohol and drug driving, such as B. not stopping after a collision and unlawful use of vehicles.