Driving under the influence of drugs set to be a new offence

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The greatest success in the improvement of road safety generally comes in the form of appropriate enforcement coupled with successful legislation.

The evidence that speed limits and limitations on drink-driving in the UK have saved lives is incredibly strong and the government are set to introduce legislation that specifically creates a new offence of driving with an illegal drug is in your system.

A panel of experts has been assembled by the government to look at the technical aspects of introducing such a law. It is still currently under development and considerations are being made as to whether it is possible to measure the level of impairment while under the influence of drugs. The experts are going to look at how different drugs affect your driving ability and consider a level that is similar to the current alcohol impairment level.

There is no current test in the UK for drug driving as there is no system like a breathalyser for testing the amount of drugs in someones system. There are also no laws that specifically deal with certain types of drugs and the only current charge is being unfit to drive because of the influence of drugs. Police need to prove that a driver is impaired and this can be very challenging and ultimately very few cases end up going to court.

There are screening devices for drugs that are beginning to come into use in other countries but unfortunately none have yet been approved for use in the UK. The legislation is being considered because a study has shown that many drivers are being fatally injured every year when driving under the influence of drugs.

It is going to be very challenging for the panel of experts to be able to determine appropriate limits. It is also going to be a very costly process and, due to the relatively small number of deaths caused by drugs on the road, the cost per life saved is going to be significantly higher than when the limits for alcohol were set. Furthermore, because of the way that some drugs interact with each other, working out the level of impairment is going to be challenging.

One consideration that is being made is a complete ban on driving while under the influence of drugs. This would make it much easier to convict people guilty of the offence as proof of impairments would not be necessary.

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