General News

New law raises awareness of drug driving

Graham Robson March 8, 2015

A new law to make it easier for police to catch and convict drug drivers today took effect in England and Wales last week.

Brighton & Hove City CouncilBRIGHTON & Hove motorists who get behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs face a criminal record, loss of their licence for at least a year and a fine of up to £5,000.

The legislation makes it illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body above specified levels, including eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs. People using prescription drugs within recommended amounts will not be penalised.

Police forces will have access to new screening equipment to test suspected drug drivers. Officers can screen drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. They will 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.

New devices that can test for a greater number of drugs at the roadside will be developed in the future.

Phil Henty from Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, said: “The new roadside equipment will save the police huge amounts of time and effort, and will help to make the roads of Brighton & Hove safer for all.”

The new law, coupled with the testing kits, will make it quicker to identify those driving under the influence of drugs and help the prosecution of drug drivers. It remains an offence to drive when impaired by any drug, including medical drugs.

To support the legislation change and the national campaign to raise awareness, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Road safety team will be working with local venues to make sure the message gets out to younger drivers and passengers, which research shows are more likely to be affected by or consider driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

Cllr Ian Davey
Cllr Ian Davey

Councillor Ian Davey, Brighton & Hove’s lead councillor for transport, said: “Driving under the influence of drugs can have devastating consequences.  The council is playing its part in helping to spread the road safety message that some drugs can impair driving and you could be putting yourself and others in danger.”

The council’s Public Health team is also working with GP surgeries and pharmacies across the city to ensure health professionals can advise patients on particular forms of medication.

The law includes eight drugs commonly associated with medicinal use that have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk and to reflect their use as medicines.

Listed medications include: morphine used to treat pain – opiate/opioid based medication will metabolise (chemically change) into morphine and show in a blood result; diazepam, clonazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam used to treat anxiety or inability to sleep; and methadone used to treat drug addiction.