Did you know drug-driving is estimated to cause around 200 deaths per year and that a drug driver is almost 50 times less likely to be convicted than a drink driver?
Over the past 50 years, road deaths due to drink driving have been slashed by more than 80%. This is largely due to the approval of the first breathalyser in 1968 following the setting of a legal drink driving limit in 1967. However, although the Road Traffic Act of 1930 specified that it was an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or any other public place while being “under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle”* up until now roadside police had to prove a driver’s ability was impaired due to drug use by, for example, asking them to walk in a straight line.
The law has changed and on the 2nd of March this year, it became an offence in England and Wales to be over set limits for the most common drugs while driving, as it is with drink driving. The new law introduces a penalty of up to six months imprisonment, twelve months disqualification and a fine of up to £5,000.
For the first time police officers will be able to test drivers for drugs on the roadside after the Home Office approved the Drugwipe, the first mobile testing device for drugs. It can test for cocaine and cannabis from a saliva sample within three to eight minutes and will allow traffic officers to test drivers on the roadside rather than taking them into a police station. The Drugwipe device can at this stage test for cocaine and cannabis, which a Home Office spokesman said were the most common substances abused by drug drivers. It is thought by the government that cannabis impairs co-ordination, visual perception, tracking and vigilance. Studies on the influence of cocaine show a driver’s ability is impaired even during withdrawal periods.
The limits for eight illegal drugs are set very low and drivers testing positive for not only cannabis and cocaine abuse but also ketamine, heroin, ecstacy, lysergic acid diethylamide, MDMA and methylamphetamine face prosecution. It is also illegal to drive with certain levels of legal drugs if you’re unfit to drive. However, you can drive after taking these drugs if you have been prescribed them and advised how to take them by a healthcare professional and they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive.
Speaking at the National Roads Policing Conference and Exhibition 2015, Robert Goodwin MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport said “This is the biggest shake-up of drug driving laws for 85 years. It will give (police) better enforcement tools for tackling drug driving. It will create a stronger deterrent. And it will save lives by taking drug drivers off our roads.”**
So, how does this change in the law affect your company’s health and safety policy? Not at all if you have procedures in place, your policies are regularly audited and your staff are aware of and compliant with company regulations. However, if you have any doubts about the robustness of your health and safety procedure speak to Miles Vartan of Miles Vartan Consultancy Ltd.