Menu

The number of people prosecuted for drug-driving has risen by almost 55 per cent in a year, according to the latest analysis of government figures.

The AA, which analysed the figures, found that the number of drug-driving offences rose from 13,736 in 2020 to a shocking 21,211 in 2021.

Prosecutions for all driving offences combined rose by 22 per cent in 2021 but have remained below pre-pandemic levels.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA said the company is “incredibly concerned” to see that drug-driving has reached such levels.

“The rise may be because drug users have increasingly thought they can get away with driving, as road enforcement increasingly relies on technology such as cameras rather than cops in cars,” he said.

“While the courts continue to catch up with a backlog of Covid cases, drivers should use this as a timely reminder of the huge responsibility they have to themselves and others when driving. All the focus should be on getting from A to B safely without being under the influence or getting distracted.”

Why is driving on drugs dangerous?

Drugs affect people in different ways, so not everybody will have the same experience while using the same substances. Drugs can even affect the same person differently when taken at a different time.

How a person’s body reacts to drug use depends on many factors including body mass, metabolism, how much of a substance they take and how often they take it.

The effects of a drug on a person’s driving can also vary wildly depending on which drug they have taken.

Certain drugs, like cannabis, can slow a driver’s reaction time, impact awareness, and reduce their ability to recognise hazards in time.

Other substances, like cocaine, can have a different but equally dangerous effect, increasing risk-taking, erratic behaviour, and reducing a person’s ability to accurately judge situations.

Ultimately, anything that impairs your ability to concentrate while driving can lead to serious consequences, including severe or even fatal car accidents.

What is the law on drug driving in the UK?

In the UK, it is illegal to drive if you are unfit to do so because you are on legal (e.g. prescription or over-the-counter medicines) or illegal drugs, or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood, even if they have not affected your ability to drive.

If you are driving and the police suspect that you might be under the influence of drugs, they can stop you for a ‘field impairment assessment’. This usually includes different tests designed to assess your ability to drive such as checking your pupils, asking you to walk in a straight line, and asking you to touch your nose.

They can also ask you to take part in a roadside drug test to screen for cocaine and cannabis, using a mouth swab. If you are suspected of driving on drugs, you might be required to take a urine or blood test back at the police station.

The penalties for drug-driving in the UK range from a one-year driving ban, to an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record.

A conviction for driving while on drugs is also likely to impact your car insurance costs and, if you drive for work, your employer will be able to see your conviction on your driving licence.

What happens if you drive on drugs at work?

In recent months, our workplace team has seen a significant increase in the number of transport and logistics firms looking to implement drug testing for drivers.

Any role that involves driving is classed as ‘safety critical’ work, meaning that an impairment such as ill health, drug taking, or alcohol use could pose a significant risk to the health and safety of other people.

This makes drug-driving in the workplace an extremely serious issue, and one that employers must take seriously.

If a member of staff is caught driving while on drugs, this not only poses a serious risk of adverse publicity for the company but could also leave the company liable if an accident occurs and the employer failed to properly investigate suspected drug use prior to the accident taking place.

While the legal ramifications of driving on drugs are clear, the way in which an employer disciplines a member of staff who has been caught drug-driving can vary, depending on company policy.

However, it is entirely possible that an employee could be dismissed from their job if they endangered the wellbeing of others by failing to comply with the company’s substance misuse policy: especially if driving is a fundamental part of their role.

Some of the most effective ways to mitigate drug-driving in the workplace include implementing regular awareness training sessions and reviewing your substance misuse policy intermittently throughout the year.

This ensures everyone is aware of the risks associated with workplace drug use, and their responsibility for maintaining a safe working environment for all, as well as maintaining drug testing standards in line with best practice.

Awareness training and cost-effective drug testing  

As a leading provider of drug testing solutions for the workplace, we have extensive experience delivering management and employee awareness training, random and for cause drug testing, drug and alcohol policy review and creation, sample collection training and managed sample collection services for businesses that rely on their staff to drive as part of their role.

Our solutions can be tailored to suit your needs, regardless of your budget or the size of your organisation.  

For more information or to request a quote for drug testing, call our workplace team on 0333 600 1300 today to discuss your needs or email workplace@alphabiolabs.com.

Drug testing for transport and logistics

Explore options for drug testing, direct from our award-winning laboratory.