Police powers to tackle drug-driving

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Drink driving campaign. Pic © West Midlands Police / Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Pic © West Midlands Police / Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Merseyside Police officers have today been given new powers to tackle people they believe to be driving under the influence of drugs.

The new law, rolled out by the Department of Transport for England and Wales, makes it illegal to drive with some substances in your system which exceed certain levels, including eight illegal drugs and eight prescription drugs.

Drivers who test positive for any of these substances, either by the roadside or at a police station, face a fine of up to £5,000, a criminal record and the loss of their licence for a year.

Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill said: “This new law will save lives. We know driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous; it devastates families and ruins lives.

“The government’s message is clear – if you take drugs and drive, you are endangering yourself and others and you risk losing your licence and a conviction.”

The driving limits for drugs commonly associated with illegal use, such as cannabis and cocaine, are set very low. Under the new legislation, a police officer can ask someone to take a roadside drug impairment test (FIT) if they believe the substance misuse may be a factor.

Officers will also be able to screen for drugs, including LSD and heroin, at a police station if they suspect the driver has taken drugs. New devices to detect a greater number of substances at the roadside are to be developed in the future.

The limits for the eight medicines, including morphine and methadone, has been set at a higher level. If someone is taking medication as directed and their driving is not impaired then they are not breaking the law.

Sergeant Paul Mountford from Merseyside Police Roads Policing Unit said: “This new law states that it is an offence to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body, whether you’re driving impaired or not.

“As with alcohol, drugs do impair your ability to drive and is just as unacceptable. A drug drive conviction will have a serious effect on your life, including a criminal record, a minimum 12-month driving ban and a fine of up to £5,000. It could also cost you your job.”

About Adam Jones, JMU Journalism