Police arrested almost 8,000 drug-drivers in England and Wales last year.
Statistics, which were requested from police forces all over the country by BBC Radio 5 live, show 7,796 people were arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs. The figures are from 35 different constabularies and cover the period from March 2015 when new drug-driving laws were introduced up to April this year.
The new legislation brought in legal limits for 17 substances including illegal drugs and prescription medication. Anyone who is convicted will be banned from driving for at least 12 months and could face a fine or up to six months in prison.
Before the law was brought in, police had to prove that a driver’s ability had been affected by drugs before they could charge them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most drug-drivers were caught in London with the Metropolitan Police arresting 1,636 people. The second highest figure was from Greater Manchester Police which made 573 arrests, closely followed by neighbouring force Cheshire which arrested 561 motorists.
The drug-driving laws include nine prescription drugs including morphine, methadone and Temazepam as well as eight illegal substances including cocaine and cannabis. With the legal medication, drivers are allowed to take it so long as they don’t exceed the set limit.
A report by the Department for Transport claims one in four young motorists know someone who has got behind the wheel after taking cannabis. And just over one in 10 have a friend or acquaintance who has driven while under the influence of a class A drug.
Substances impair ability to control a vehicle
Athol Johnston, a professor of clinical pharmacology based at Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC: “Of the 17 drugs on the list, over half of them are actually sedatives so they’ll have a very similar action to alcohol, they’ll make it more difficult for you to drive, you’ll lack attention.
“Then you’ve got the stimulants, they’ll really distract you from driving, you’re not paying attention, you don’t drive as well. Then you’ve got things like Ketamine and LSD, which frankly, if you take those, you don’t know what you’re doing, because you’re hallucinating, you may see things that aren’t there, and you won’t be able to control your car properly.”
When the new legislation was brought in last March, police forces were given drug testing kits which could be used at the roadside to detect whether motorists had taken either cocaine or cannabis. When officers suspect a motorist may have taken drugs, they take a swab from their mouths and can find out in eight minutes if either of the two drugs are present.
Drivers are then taken to a police station and given a blood test, which can detect any other substances in their system.
Companies who employ drivers may want to introduce their own drug testing policy to ensure their staff don’t fall foul of this law. AlphaBiolabs offers a range of workplace drug testing services including random tests, pre-employment screening and post-incident tests.
We also sell workplace drug testing kits which allow employers to get quick results within minutes.