A recent review of the safety of people driving under the influence of drugs has shown that those who smoke cannabis before driving are twice as likely to have a serious accident. The study showed that those who consume the illegal drug three hours or less before driving are twice as likely to be involved in a crash.
The research has come out of a university in Canada and it is only focused on the increased risk of major accidents and has not looked at the drugs effect on minor road incidents. There is increasing amount of concern over people using drugs and then getting in a vehicle in the UK, and it is a problem that is particularly known to affect young drivers.
The country is currently considering the introduction of a system which will analyse people for drug use on the roadside, much like a breathalyser for alcohol does. Much campaigning has been done by the family of a young child who was killed by a driver who was under the influence of cannabis.
John Page was the motorist who killed the child and he was subjected to a drug test nine hours after having the accident. He tested positive for cannabis, but because the drug test was conducted so late, it was impossible to get a conviction for driving while under the influence of drugs, which would have carried a more severe penalty. Instead of a long prison sentence, he was banned from driving for two years and only spent two months in prison.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has voiced his support for people having illegal drugs tests at the roadside and he has commented that drugs clearly affect people’s motor skills which are absolutely essential for safe driving.
The study, which has been conducted in Canada, is the first that has looked solely at the effect on peoples driving under the influence of cannabis. Previous statistical analyses have shown that people are more dangerous under influence of drugs, but the studies have always looked for cases where people have been influenced by alcohol as well.
The study looked at all types of vehicle and it concluded, “Recent data has shown that while the number of people drink-driving is declining, the number of people who take drugs and then drive a car is increasing. Those under the influence of drugs, such as cannabis, are a danger on the road and they are more likely to injure themselves and other road users.”
During 2008 around 70,000 people in Britain were convicted of drink-driving offences, where is only 1500 people were convicted of driving under the influence of drugs. Mike Penning is the Road safety Minister and he has commented, “We want to introduce a new offence of drug driving and start using drug screening equipment on the road. This will make it easier for police to crack down on the small minority of people who are taking drugs and then driving their vehicles.
“We are currently collecting data for ourselves about what the increased risks are of driving under the influence of drugs, but we are certain they do play a part of road accidents. Despite the fact that the UK has some of the world’s safest roads we are not complacent and are determined to crack down on those who do not respect motoring laws.”