The government announced plans today (9 May 2012) to crack down on those who drive while under the influence of drugs.
Legislation unveiled in the Queen’s speech will create a specific drug driving offence. Currently police have to demonstrate that driving had been impaired by drugs in order to prosecute.
Under the proposed legislation it will automatically be an offence to drive a motor vehicle if you have certain controlled drugs in your body in excess of specified limits. This will make it much easier for police to take action against drug drivers.
Devices to screen for drugs in the body are expected to receive type approval from the Home Office by the end of the year.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said:
Drug drivers are a deadly menace - they must be stopped and that is exactly what I intend to do.
The new offence sends out a clear message that if you drive whilst under the influence of drugs you will not get away with it.
We have an enviable record on road safety in this country and I want to keep it that way. This measure will help to rid our roads of the irresponsible minority who risk the lives of innocent motorists and pedestrians.
An independent review of drink and drug driving law in 2010 recommended that a new specified limit offence should be developed. The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be determined following advice from an expert panel and a public consultation.
Earlier this year the Department for Transport announced the formation of the panel and today is confirming the membership. It includes experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse and will also work with officials from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department of Health.
The penalty for the new offence will be a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000, and an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.
Notes to editors
A government review of drink and drug driving law recommended that the new offence should be developed.
The clause introduces an offence across Great Britain of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst having certain controlled drugs in the blood or urine in excess of the level specified for each of those drugs.
It is already an offence to drive whilst impaired by drugs, and this will remain in place alongside the new specified limit offence. The penalty for the new offence will be a maximum of 6 months imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to £5,000, and an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.
The clause introduces a regulation-making power to specify which controlled drugs and what levels of them are included in the new offence. These drugs and levels will be specified following advice from an expert panel, a public consultation and using affirmative resolution procedure.
The membership of the panel is as follows:
Dr. Kim Wolff (Chair): Reader in Addiction Science, King’s College London
Prof. Robert Forrest: Forensic and Academician, Sheffield University
Dr. Lily Read: Clinical Psychiatrist with interest in medical aspects of transport safety, Northampton Hospital (Ex DfT Medical advisor)
Dr. J. Colin Forfar: Consultant Physician and Cardiologist, Representative from Commission for Human Medicine (MHRA)
Dr. Roger Brimblecombe: Pharmacologist with interest in mental health and misuse of drugs, Non-exec director for Gloucestershire and Herefordshire NHS foundation trust and Member of Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)
Professor Atholl Johnston: Professor Clinical Pharmacology, Barts and London school of medicine, Queen Mary University
Professor David Osselton: Forensic Toxicologist and Director of the Centre of Forensic Sciences
Dr. Judith Morgan: Senior Medical Advisor, DVLA
Professor Eilish Gilvarry: Consultant Psychiatrist in Addictions and Honorary Professor of Addiction Psychiatry
University of Newcastle