Criminal law: Drug-driving laws may be toughened

Criminal law: Drug-driving laws may be toughened

The Government has announced it is to commission a panel of academics and scientists to review the law against driving whilst under the influence of drugs. The experts will consider the methods for testing whether a driver has taken drugs, and whether there should be any legal limits for motorists, as there are for drinking and driving.

“Britain has some of the safest roads in the world, but we know how important it is to tackle the menace of drug-driving,” said Mike Penning, the road safety minister.

“That is why we are putting together experts to give us advice on the technical aspects of introducing an offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body,” he added.

The move has come amidst calls from safety campaigners for tougher laws on driving under the influence of drugs. The campaigners point to a large increase in the proportion of fatal accidents involving drivers who have taken drugs. The foremost of drugs is thought to be cannabis.

The law does currently allow for an offence of being unfit to drive through drugs, but prosecutors have difficulty securing proof and so convictions are rare. This is because the law currently requires evidence of impaired driving ability.

Police officers have no roadside test kit to assess the level of intoxication for common drugs, and therefore rely on a subjective review conducted by asking drivers to count to 30, walk in a line forwards and then backwards and touch their finger to their nose with their eyes closed.

The Department for Transport has identified cocaine, MDMA, cannabis and opiates as the main drugs it wishes to look for in drivers.

Roadside drug-testing kits or ‘drugalysers’ have been used in Australia since 2004. Police there take a sample of saliva, which can then be tested for MDMA, methamphetamine and THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

“75% of our members want it to be zero tolerance on drugs. How can you have a legal limit for something that it is illegal to possess?” said Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA.

Do you think there should be a limit for drug-driving or that there should be zero tolerance? Leave a comment below.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Driving and drugs (FindLaw)

Find local motoring solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)

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