A new “zero tolerance” drug drive law came into force in England and Wales yesterday.
The legislation makes it illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body above a specified level. While existing powers allowed police to prosecute drivers under the influence of drugs, the new legislation now means police officers across England and Wales will be equipped with “drugalyser” roadside testing kits, which will show if drivers are above the prescribed limit.
It is hoped this will make the process of identifying and prosecuting drug-drivers quicker and more effective, as under the previous legislation officers had to arrest suspects and take them to a police station to undergo blood testing.Offenders can face a six-month custodial sentence, loss of licence, a fine of up to £5,000 and an automatic 12-month driving ban.
Chief Inspector Martyn Stone, Specialist Operations at South Wales Police, said: “The safety of our communities is our highest priority and we want to spread the message that it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs and drivers caught doing so will be prosecuted. The dangers and consequences of doing so can be devastating.”
A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that 18 per cent of drivers and 16 per cent of motorcyclists killed in road crashes had traces of illegal drugs in their system, the most common being cannabis.
Under the new legislation, eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs will be tested using roadside equipment. Some illegal drugs included on the list are cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. A number of prescribed medications are also included, but you can drive using these drugs if they are issued by a doctor.
Bryony Allen, 23, a student nurse from Ely, said: “I have had a hip replacement and I take Oramorph, which contains morphine, daily. I would be in a lot of pain if I didn’t take it.
“I had some driving lessons about three years ago. I don’t think I drove while I was on morphine but I have taken it while on placement as a nurse. But when you concentrate, you feel the effects of it less.
A breathalyser, similar to how the so-called drugalysers appear (Source: pixabay.com)
“If you are going to drive on it, you need to know how you react to it because people react differently and you should have a prolonged experience of morphine to be most aware of its effects on you.
“I think the law change is a good thing. I wouldn’t drive straight after taking morphine because it makes you light headed and drowsy. It will be safer with this law in place most definitely.”
The government are also planning on introducing a new digital service, called “Make a Plea”, which will allow minor motoring offenders to plead guilty or not guilty online.