The Department for Transport is establishing an expert panel to consider the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said:
Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we know how important it is to tackle the menace of drug driving.
That is why we are putting together a panel of experts to give us advice on the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body. The panel will look at how such an offence could be defined as well as considering whether it is possible to set levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs.
The department’s response to the North review made it clear that driving while impaired by drugs is as important an issue as drink-driving. It is now relatively easy to enforce the law against drink-driving, while the equally serious driving whilst impaired by drugs is more difficult to deal with effectively.
The department said that it would examine the case for a new specific drug driving offence - alongside the existing one - which would relieve the need for the police to prove impairment case-by-case where a specified drug had been detected.
That is why the department is putting together a panel of experts to give advice on the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body. The panel will look at how such an offence could be defined as well as considering whether it is possible to set levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs.
The panel’s terms of reference are under development and are likely to be finalised when the panel has been fully assembled and starts work. This is expected to be in the Spring.
It is likely that the panel will consider whether it is possible to identify, for average members of the adult population, the levels of drugs that have an impairing effect broadly equivalent to the current blood alcohol level. They will consider this effect for a number of drugs including cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, and opiates.
In cases where such levels can be identified the panel may then look at how these would vary across the population, including for habitual users of these substances.
The panel will examine whether impairment levels could be exceeded through prescribed or otherwise legally obtained drugs as well as the effects of the interaction drugs and alcohol and of different combinations of drugs.
The expert panel will comprise academic and scientific experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse and we are also working with colleagues from the Home Office and Department of Health.
The group’s remit will be to provide scientific, evidence-based technical advice and not to provide policy or legal advice.