Drug driving is a menace on our roads with an estimated 200 drug driving-related deaths a year in Great Britain. The government has a zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use and it is important that we send the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive.
In order to tackle this threat to safety on our roads, the government is introducing a new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified controlled drug in the body. The new offence is included in the Crime and Courts Bill, currently before Parliament. It will enable more effective law enforcement and help to keep our roads safe.
Last spring, the department commissioned a panel of medical and scientific experts to provide technical advice on drugs to potentially be covered by the new offence. The panel has concluded its work and today I have published their report, ‘Driving under the influence of drugs’. I would like to thank Dr Kim Wolff and the panel for the significant work undertaken in analysing a vast amount of research in this area and for making their recommendations.
The government will carefully consider the panel’s recommendations. In doing so, we are clear that the design of the new offence must send the strongest possible message that you cannot take any amount of illegal drugs and drive.
At the same time the government must consider the position of those who legitimately and safely use medicines which may contain controlled drugs. We recognise that for the purposes of drug testing, distinguishing between those drugs which do have medical uses and those which do not is complex. We must ensure that the new offence would not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in line with medical advice.
Later in the year the government will make specific proposals regarding the drugs to be specified in regulations for the new offence. These proposals will be subject to a public consultation. After taking account of any responses received, regulations containing the final proposals would then need to be approved by Parliament before they could become law.
I am placing a copy of the panel’s report in the House libraries.