Stephen Hammond, the Roads Minister, has revealed his plans to make it much easier to prosecute those who have driven while under the influence of illegal substances.
Back in January of 2012, the Government announced that they would be introducing a brand new offence which consists of driving with a level over the legal limit for a specific controlled drug.
The consultation published today puts forward proposals on the drugs to be included in the legislation and the limits to be specified. The proposals follow a report published in March this year by a panel of medical and scientific experts which provided advice to the Government on drug driving.
The new offence will reduce the wasted time, expense and effort involved for the police and the courts when prosecutions fail because of the difficulty of proving that a driver is impaired by a particular drug.
Stephen Hammond said:
“Drug driving is a menace which devastates families and ruins lives. That is why we are proposing to take a zero tolerance approach with those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs and sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
“We have also put forward our proposals for dealing with drivers who use specific prescribed drugs. We know that the vast majority of people who use these drugs are doing so responsibly and safely and that is why our approach does not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed medicines.
“Together, these proposals will make our roads safer for everyone by making it easier for the police to tackle those who drive after taking illegal drugs and clarifying the position for those who take medication.”
In taking a zero tolerance approach to these drugs, the Government proposes to set the limits at a level that does not catch someone who has consumed a very small amount of an illegal drug inadvertently.
In considering what approach to propose for each illegal drug and what limit to set, the Government has weighed up a number of factors including the evidence about the use of the drug when driving, wider drugs policy, and the findings and recommendations from the Expert Panel.
After considering all of the above the Government proposes a zero tolerance approach to the following 8 controlled drugs which are known to impair driving: Cannabis, MDMA (Ecstasy), Cocaine, Ketamine, Benzoylecgonine (primary metabolite of cocaine), Methamphetamine, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and diamorphine).
In addition to the eight illegal drugs listed above, the Government proposes to set limits for eight controlled drugs that have recognised and widespread medical uses but which can also affect a patient’s ability to drive.
The limits proposed follow the recommendations of the Expert Panel, which in the vast majority of cases, will avoid the new offence catching out drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in accordance with the directions of a healthcare professional or the drug manufacturer. This will avoid inconveniencing the public and taking up police time.
There is one further controlled drug, amphetamine, which has some medical use in specific circumstances but is also often taken illegally and which the Government proposes to include in the regulations. The consultation seeks views on what a suitable limit might be for amphetamine.
While the draft regulations proposed are in relation to England and Wales, the consultation on the approach to the different policy options has been extended to Scotland.
The consultation starts today and closes on 17 September 2013.