Drugs and driving: the law
It’s illegal to drive if either:
- you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs
- you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they have not affected your driving)
Legal drugs are prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.
The police can stop you and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests, for example asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine.
If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station.
You could be charged with a crime if the test shows you’ve taken drugs.
It’s illegal in England, Scotland and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.
It’s an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the following drugs:
- amphetamine, for example dexamphetamine or selegiline
- morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, for example codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
You can drive after taking these drugs if:
- you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional
- they are not causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits
You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you have not been prescribed them.
The law does not cover Northern Ireland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.
Penalties for drug driving
If you’re convicted of drug driving you may get:
- a minimum 1 year driving ban
- an unlimited fine
- up to 6 months in prison
- a criminal record
Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.
The maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving under the influence of drugs is life imprisonment.
Other problems you could face
A conviction for drug driving also means:
- your car insurance costs will increase significantly
- if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
- you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA