This year’s Queens speech delivered the message that the Government is to introduce a specific drug driving offence.
For those of us who have been involved in the thorny problem of drugs and driving since the late 1990’s, I find it strange that because the PM has taken an interest in the subject, things have started to move along a bit quicker.
If the draft legislation, gets through the two houses, as it stands, it will mean that for the first time we will have an offence that makes it illegal to drive with a drug in your body and not merely impaired by it.
Now of course, it is likely that only a few common illicit drugs will be subject to such an offence, and at this point I would offer the suggestion that these drugs may be Cannabis, Cocaine, Heroin, probably Ecstacy, other amphetamines, and possibly Ketamine.
Will you get prosecuted?
Does this mean that any suggestion that there is one of these scheduled drugs in your body gets you 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. The Governments special panel of experts will be the ones deciding on what drugs and how much will be included in any per se drug law.
What about the other drugs?
But what about all the other drugs that people 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. Again does this mean that there will no longer be any recourse by the police to prosecute if you are impaired to drive? Certainly not, the old offence of driving while unfit to drive will remain.
Some of the popular media talk about the need for a ‘drugalyser,’ and they are usually misinformed about them. A roadside drug testing device for impairment is scientifically a long way off. However, if we get a 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.
What we do know is that when this new legislation comes into force, there will be drug testing machines in the police station, alongside the police station breathalysers.
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 were to take a serious policy and educational approach to managing their own occupational road risk (MORR), it will ensure that their drivers are aware of the risks of driving under the influence. By making it a part of your 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.
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, Metropolitan Police, 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.
Stephen will be speaking at a Conference on drugs and driving on 16th October, organized by the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety. (www.pacts.org.uk)
For more information about his training and consultancy services, please telephone 08450 522 985, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, using reference DM1.