Legislation unveiled in the Queen’s Speech will create a specific drug driving offence. Currently police have to demonstrate that driving had been impaired by drugs in order to prosecute. Under the proposed legislation it will automatically be an offence to drive a motor vehicle if you have certain controlled drugs in your body in excess of specified limits. This will make it much easier for police to take action against drug drivers.
Devices to screen for drugs in the body are expected to receive type approval from the Home Office by the end of the year. Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “Drug drivers are a deadly menace – they must be stopped and that is exactly what I intend to do. The new offence sends out a clear message that if you drive whilst under the influence of drugs you will not get away with it. We have an enviable record on road safety in this country and I want to keep it that way. This measure will help to rid our roads of the irresponsible minority who risk the lives of innocent motorists and pedestrians.”
An independent review of drink and drug driving law in 2010 recommended that a new specified limit offence should be developed. The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be determined following advice from an expert panel and a public consultation.
Earlier this year the Department for Transport announced the formation of the panel and is confirming the membership. It includes experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse and will also work with officials from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department of Health.
The penalty for the new offence will be a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000, and an automatic driving ban of at least 12 months.