A year ago, I wrote about the fairly complex procedure for investigating a motorist suspected of drug-driving.
That the driving is impaired for that reason, though at the moment, the tests police must conduct involve not only proving that a driver is under the influence of drugs.
The existing legislation states that: An individual who, when driving or seeking to drive a [mechanically propelled vehicle] on the road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence.
But the law is changing to remove the vast majority of difficulties police have at the moment in proving a motorist is unfit to drive.
Drug driving law change
If somebody has a certain level of drugs in their system – and this includes legal drugs – there will be no reason to prove how the motorist was impaired in any way, instead.
So, a motorist may feel completely fine to operate a vehicle but their blood level is exactly what counts.
Is drug driving a real issue?
It appears that drug driving remains a main objective for the public.
An annual survey for the Department for Transport looks at road-safety attitudes and behaviour among the British population.
The most up-to-date survey, from August 2013, found 28% of folks chose drug driving as one of the top five road-safety issues for that government to address.
Drink driving topped the list, followed by speeding and using a handheld cellphone at the wheel.
New drug driving test
Currently, the exam for drug driving involves proving a motorist’s driving was impaired.
But proving a driver is impaired and that the impairment is caused by a drug can be complex and requires an element of subjectivity.
The government has held two consultations to improve the law to make things easier for the police.
These concluded last month with public approval of recommended legal limits for 16 different drugs (both prescribed and illegal).
How will this modification and when?
The latest regulations will transform the offence of drug driving to be more like drink driving, with prescribed limits.
They are likely to come into force in autumn 2014.
The Department for Transport is trying to force through a zero tolerance approach to deter people from taking drugs and driving.
This is similar to those of Europe.
It is important to note that the limits will not be set at zero, as drugs taken for medical ailments can be absorbed in the body to produce trace effects.
Different prescription medication is broken down at different speeds and that is reflected in the varying limits, expressed in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L), below:
Drug driving limits: Illegal drugs
1. Benzoylecgonine, 50 µg/L (Incorporated into cocaine)
2. Cocaine, 10 µg/L
3. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabinol and cannabis), 2 µg/L
4. Ketamine, 20 µg/L
5. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 1 µg/L
6. Methylamphetamine – 10 µg/L
7. Methylenedioxymethaphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy), 10 µg/L
8. 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and morphine), 5 µg/L
Drug driving limits: General prescription drugs
1. Clonazepam, 50 µg/L
2. Diazepam, 550 µg/L
3. Flunitrazepam, 300 µg/L
4. Lorazepam, 100 µg/L
5. Methadone, 500 µg/L
6. Morphine, 80 µg/L
7. Oxazepam, 300 µg/L
8. Temazepam, 1000 µg/L
What can I do to be certain I drive within the law?
In the case of some prescription drugs, lots of people are unaware that getting in the car can result in a criminal offence being committed.
I suspect many medicines will contain more noticeable warnings when the new laws are introduced.
However, anyone taking regular medicine which you have been taking for years may wish to consult with your doctor about the limits and safe dosages.
Take a taxi if uncertain: the penalty for the offence, as with drink driving, is really a minimum disqualification of 12 months and a maximum of half a year in prison.