Road Safety News

THINK! launches drug drive campaign

Monday 2nd March 2015

A new law designed to make it easier for police to catch and convict drug drivers has come into effect today (2 March) in England and Wales.

To support the legislation change, the THINK! team has launched a new awareness campaign on radio, online and in pub and club washrooms.

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 penalized.

The penalties for people who drive after taking illegal drugs include loss of licence for at least a year and a fine of up to £5,000.

Police will have new equipment to screen drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside. They will also 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.

In new research conducted by THINK!, almost half of those surveyed (49%) said that as a passenger they would not feel comfortable asking a driver if they were under the influence of illegal drugs.

Of those who admitted to driving under the influence of illegal drugs, 55% said they did so because they felt safe to drive; and 60% revealed they had previously driven a car when they were unsure if they were still under the influence of illegal drugs.

The THINK! campaign explains that drugs can affect the ability to drive in numerous ways, ranging from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behaviour, an inability to concentrate properly, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors (or ‘the shakes’) to dizziness and fatigue.

It also explains that taking a mixture of drugs to ‘sharpen up’ doesn’t work and that, in fact, combining drugs can have “dramatic and unpredictable effects on a user’s state and ability to drive”.

The campaign also urges passengers not to accept a lift from a driver they think may have taken drugs.

Dr Kim Wolf, reader in addiction science at King’s College London and an advisor for the Government drug drive policy, said: “It is worrying to note that so many drug drivers said they felt safe to drive after taking illegal drugs.

“In many cases those who take certain illegal drugs believe that they are safe to drive, but are in fact putting themselves and others at risk. “Greater awareness of the dangers of drug driving is important as we move forward with this important step towards safer roads.”



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Crickey, all I did was ask for real-world evidence and lots of people disagree. You ask a good question David. In all the times I've been a passenger, the drivers I've considered unsafe I am very sure were not under the influence of any of these drugs. Of those drivers I've considered safe, I have no idea if or what level of medication or illegal drugs they've taken. I probably have been driven safely by drivers who would fail the new laws, potentially inadvertently.

Data clearly shows alcohol is dangerous and seat-belts save lives, but other behaviours are being banned without the required evidence. A clear pattern appears to be emerging where, if data doesn't support the case, other less-reliable data is sought and selectively presented.

Remember, if someone cannot drive safely through drug use, that is already illegal (driving without due care or dangerous driving). Rather than introduce rafts of new laws, we need to spend scarce resources to restore traffic Police to previous levels.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

If you are concerned as to whether there is any evidence then why not try Googling to reduce your ignorance rather than expecting other readers to do this for you. If you want to challenge the appropriateness of laws against drug driving after the due process of legislation then it is you that must do your research and present your evidence. And if you can't be bothered then perhaps you should cease from commenting, as I am about to do on this matter!
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

The question here, as far as I know, has not been about people doing things (driving or using weapons) under the influence of drugs (I have never suggested that that was not a problem) but about whether the new legislation can be expected to have a positive net effect on the problem of drug-driving.

In particular, are there any unintended consequences of the inclusion of eight prescription drugs, and do the police have budget/resource to enforce?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

Sorry Eric. I forgot that it was the arms industry that you are involved with. So, where do you stand regarding your systems being "delivered" or "used" by people who are under the influence of drugs?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Wrong again, Rod. I have never claimed any factory H&S responsibility. My role covers the safety of our delivered systems (ranging from radars to weapons) assuring the risk of unintended harm from them is acceptable. It's a role where the evidence and argument needs to be robust and compelling.

It is the responsbilty of those drawing up the drug-drive legislation to assure the answers to the questions raised by Dave Finney are supported by more than wishful thinking and emotion. Road safety professionals should be seeking similar assurance.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (7)

You often quote that your view comes from being responsible for Health and Safety in a factory. What's your opinion about fork lift truck and other operatives taking drugs? Do you allow it? And what's the basis for your decision?

And if you and David are saying there is a deficit in research on this issue, I wonder if you have bothered to google "drugs driving research" before asking whether any research has been done?

Surely the absence of any inclination of your own to bother looking up the research is not an indication that the research does not exist?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (8) | Disagree (4)

It's not before time this legislation has been introduced as alcohol is not exclusive to driver impairment.

Is it not too little too late though as due to austerity cuts in many counties there are so few roads policing officers that most offenders will escape the net?
Jeff, Cumbria

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Emotional argument is no substitute for evidence and resourcing challenge from Dave Finney.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Researcher, St Albans

Agree (6) | Disagree (13)

I despair at your comment. Leaving aside all the evidence of impairment, would you be happy for your family to be driven by a driver who had consumed these drugs?
David Davies, London

Agree (23) | Disagree (6)

Is there any actual real-world evidence that these new laws, with draconian penalties, will save any lives overall, or are these more "look like we're doing something" laws, even though the Police don't have the budget to enforce them?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (23)