The law relating to “Drug Driving” is one which prohibits an individual from driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. Drugs are defined as any intoxicant other than alcohol. The offence under section 4 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act is that if you are unfit to drive through drugs (or drink), then, you commit an offence. Now the government has sought to amend the law by creating a new offence of ‘drug driving’. They have decided to do that because, belatedly, they have realised that there are an awful lot of people who are driving whilst they have drugs within their metabolism.
Another reason they have decided to create a new offence is that under the existing law, under section 4 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act, it’s necessary to prove that you were unfit to drive through drugs (or drink). So the government has decided to introduce a new law, which will take effect in England and Wales on the 2nd March 2015. And that law will, broadly speaking, categorise drugs under two headings:
Illicit, Proscribed Drugs
There will be illicit proscribed drugs: drugs which, if you are found to have them in your system, you will be committing an offence. Now, in relation to the proscribed drugs, there are going to be levels set which are very low levels. So if you have even a trace level of one of the specified illicit drugs, and you were driving with that drug in your metabolism, then you will be guilty of an offence.
The Crown will not have to prove that you are unfit to drive or that your driving was impaired.
Lawfully Prescribed Drugs
” lawfully prescribed for conditions like insomnia, anxiety, depression”
The matter which concerns the vast majority of the law abiding public, though, is the second classification of drugs, which the government has specified under the new offence.
There are about 8 drugs, which are lawfully prescribed for conditions like insomnia, anxiety, depression. These are drugs like: tamazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, in other words, commonly prescribed drugs, for conditions which are, in fact, prevalent in our society. And if you have over a specified level of any one of the 8 drugs within your blood stream, and you are driving, or attempting to drive, or in charge of a vehicle on a road or other public place, then you will be committing an offence.
There is a defence open to you: that you were prescribed the drug for medical or dental purposes, and that you took the drug in accordance with the directions given to you by the person who prescribed the drug, such as your doctor; also that you followed the guidance of the manufacturer or distributor of the drug, insofar as those directions were consistent with what the prescriber of the drug told you. So in other words, if you take a drug, and the doctor says, “Take this one once a night before you go to bed.”, and that’s consistent with the instructions the manufacturer provides on the packet, or in the leaflet that comes with the drugs; if you do that and no more, and you’re found to be in excess of the prescribed limit, then that will be a defence, because you did no more than what you were told by the doctor and manufacturer.
If however the doctor said to you, “Don’t drive within 24 hours of taking this drug [or within say 12 hours of taking the drug.]”, then the defence will not avail you, if in fact you’ve driven within that period. So, you’re only going to be caught by this new offence, if the level of the drug within your body exceeds the specified level within the act. You should bear in mind, that for lawfully prescribed drugs, the government has set much higher levels than they have for illicit drugs. So, in the case of cocaine or heroin or something like that, if you have a trace level, you are likely to be above the level set in the Act and guilty of an offence. In the case of lawfully prescribed drugs, the levels set, which you must exceed before you commit an offence are much higher.
You are unlikely to be committing an offence if you are taking a prescribed drug in accordance with the directions of your doctor.
So, this is a matter which is, of course, of legitimate interest perhaps to millions of people.
So be warned! New drug driving laws: coming into effect in England and Wales on 2nd March 2015.
Table of drugs and limits
|‘Illegal’ drugs (‘accidental exposure’ – zero tolerance approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
|lysergic acid diethylamide||1µg/L|
|‘Medicinal’ drugs (risk based approach)||Threshold limit in blood|
|amphetamine (regulations were recently laid with the proposed limit and expected to come into force after 2 March 2015)||250µg/L|
Table quoted from: