This year’s Queens speech delivered a message that the Government is to introduce a specific drug driving offence. I am not going to say, ‘I told you so’ or that we are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but for those of us who have been involved in the thorny problem of drugs and driving since the late 1990’s, it’s difficult to think otherwise. And don’t you think its funny that because the PM has taken an interest in the subject, things start to move along a bit quicker.
I read today on the Parliament web pages, that the draft legislation, if it gets through the two houses, as it stands, will mean the end of seeing if a driver is impaired before a prosecution can ensue. Now of course, it is likely that this will only be a selection of illicit drugs that are commonly used, and at this point I would offer the suggestion of such drugs as Cannabis, Cocaine, Opiates (Heroin), probably Ecsatcy, other amphetamines, and possibly Ketamine. Does this also mean that any suggestion that this drug is in your body you will be prosecuted. Well, that’s difficult to say. The simple reason is that there are two schools of thought. There are those who think that we must identify a certain amount of the drug that must be in the body before prosecution, and there are those who take the view that if it’s illicit, it should not be there anyway, so any amount will do.
Drugs and Driving – A New Offence
You may have heard that the Government has set up a ‘body of experts’, all scientist types without any practical knowledge of policing, to look at these per se amounts and to decide which drugs would be part of the schedule. We can only hope that they come to the right conclusions quickly.
But if a per se drug law does come into being, what about all the other drugs that you take that affect your ability to drive safely. One of the most common drugs of abuse, are the prescribed drugs called Benzodiazepines, drugs such as Diazepam, Temazepam etc. Does this mean that there is no recourse by the police to prosecution if you are impaired to drive. Certainly not, the old offence of driving while unfit to drive will remain. In fact it has been on the statute books since the early 1930’s, and I am certain they are not going to throw it away just yet.
What about a ‘drugalyser’, I hear you shout. Well, contrary to popular belief and misinformation from the media, a road side drug testing device for impairment is a long way off. However, if we get this new law, there are many manufacturers of roadside tests using sweat or saliva that could be approved for use by the Home Office. Some of these tests are already in use in overseas police forces. On that we can only wait and see, but what we do know is that when this new legislation gets enacted, hopefully there will be machines in the police station, to do the same as what the alcohol machines do, but just tell you what drug you have been taking.
How good is this for road safety and those companies who employ drivers?
If the new legislation is accompanied by a serious intent to educate the motorist, particularly those who use this stuff, and the police service in general embrace the new legislation with an intent to increase the number of specialist road policing officers to enforce the legislation, then I do believe that it will have an effect on the number of drivers who drive under the influence of a drug and make it socially unacceptable.
If more employers take a serious policy and educational approach to managing their own occupational road risk (MORR), it will ensure that none of their drivers are driving under the influence. By making it a part of their own company strategy, over and above what the legislation says, there is a great possibility that we can reduce the amount of drug influenced drivers on our roads.
We are at the beginning of a long and rocky road. Legislative changes to the draft, budgetary constraints on the police service, the need to push for more business in these difficult times and the political will to maintain the impetus, will all be there to thwart progress, but at least we have started on that road, lets hope we make it to the end without any accidents!
About the Author:
Stephen Collier, is well known as an expert Drugs and Driving Awareness trainer with many years experience in training police forces, including Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, West Mercia, The Scottish Police College, New Zealand Police and most recently Hong Kong Police. He has also worked with a number of businesses and educational establishments, including Balfour Beatty, Christian Salvessen, Transport Research Laboratory, Pentrehafod School, and also Cranfield University.
Stephen set up Blueknight Learning after retiring from the police service and has become one of the pre-eminent speakers and a force for corporate education on drug driving and drug and alcohol awareness. He was trained in the United States as a Drug Recognition Expert, and is one of the few trainers accredited to deliver Impairment Testing and Drug Recognition Training in the UK. The company also provides training for corporate manslaughter awareness, Road Death Investigation and Managing Occupational Road Risk
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