Drug drive

A year ago I posted about the legal limits and the affected prescription drugs. It seems some people think they’ll get away with it.
There were almost 8,000 arrests last year for drug
driving in England and Wales, figures obtained by
BBC Radio 5 live have suggested.
The statistics from 35 of the 43 forces showed that 7,796 people were arrested between March 2015 and April 2016.
New Legislation was brought in covering legal driving limits for 17 illegal and prescription drugs in March last year.
Under the old laws, police had to show driving was impaired by drugs to prosecute.
From March 2015, the new drug driving laws in England and Wales made it a specific offence to drive after having certain drugs above prescribed levels.
Those caught face a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison and an unlimited fine and a criminal record.
The Metropolitan Police carried out the most arrests from March 2015 to April this year with 1,636, followed by Greater Manchester Police with 573, and the Cheshire force came a close third with 546.
A case study: ‘Bill’, 31, spent almost 10 years abusing cocaine and other drugs.
“I drove a car for many years and took cocaine… I didn’t have a car for a long period of time, I ran out of money, and then I used to steal my sister’s car, or parents’ car, often to go in search of more drugs. I’m incredibly lucky to have never been involved in an accident. Quite often if I had mixed drugs – if I had taken cocaine, large amounts of it, and mixed it with Xanax [used to treat anxiety and panic disorders] or a painkiller of some sort – I would sort of temporarily black out, lose consciousness and come to and I’d be on the motorway and suddenly wake up and realise where I was. That’s happened on a few occasions. Obviously I couldn’t drive at all. I mean it was very dangerous, very selfish, very reckless. It’s one thing I’m eternally ashamed about.”
The change in the law covered eight illegal drugs including cannabis and cocaine, eight prescription drugs including Temazepam, which is used to treat anxiety, and morphine, which is prescribed for pain relief.
People are not penalised if they use prescription drugs within recommended amounts.
They also have to follow doctors’ advice, including if that advice is not to drive while taking certain substances.
A study published by the Department for Transport suggests 25% of young drivers know someone who has driven after smoking cannabis, and 11% know someone who has driven after taking Class A drugs.
Athol Johnston, a professor of clinical pharmacology at Queen Mary University of London, was on the panel that advised the Department for Transport on drug driving limits. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Of the 17 drugs on the list, over half of them are actually sedatives so they’ll have a very similar action to alcohol, they’ll make it more difficult for you to drive, you’ll lack attention. Then you’ve got the stimulants, they’ll really distract you from driving, you’re not paying attention, you don’t drive as well. Then you’ve got things like Ketamine and LSD, which frankly, if you take those, you don’t know what you’re doing, because you’re hallucinating, you may see things that aren’t there, and you won’t be able to control your car properly.”The prescription drugs covered by the new law
Clonazepam is prescribed to treat seizures or panic disorders
Diazepam is used for anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms
Flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol) is a sedative originally used in hospitals for deep sedation in the 1970s Lorazepam is used to treat convulsions or seizures caused by epilepsy
Oxazepam is used to relieve anxiety, including anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal
Temazepam affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause insomnia problems Methadone is used in the treatment of heroin addiction and for pain relief
Morphine or opiates treat moderate to severe pain
At the same time as the law changes in England and Wales, forces were issued with roadside drug testing kits allowing them to check if a person has taken cocaine or cannabis.
They are not used by either Police Scotland or the Police Service of Northern Ireland, where separate legislation covering drug driving is in force.
In both countries, offenders are prosecuted under legislation making it an offence to drive while impaired by drink or drugs.
The testing kit uses a mouth swab to check for the presence of drugs and a blue line appears after eight minutes if the person has taken them. It only works for cocaine and cannabis. Drivers have to be taken to a police station for a blood test for other drugs.
‘Completely unpredictable’
Figures provided by some forces show the impact the new test is having.
South Yorkshire Police drug driving-related arrests went from 13 in the year the test was introduced to 456 the following year – a 3,400% increase, according to a BBC Yorkshire Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Gloucestershire Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, the roads policing lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “The drug testing kit and the legislation are immensely helpful and have provided the operational officer with the tools necessary to help catch those who take the risk of drug driving.
“People who previously got away with driving under the influence of controlled drugs are now being detected and prosecuted.”
Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire Police Mark Roberts said the message to people who had even had a small amount of cannabis, for example, was: “The drugs in your system will impair your ability to respond. It’s completely unpredictable.
“You don’t know what you’re putting in your system. You can’t consider yourself safe and you shouldn’t be doing it.”

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