It has been discovered, following a Freedom of Information request, that almost half the drivers stopped and given roadside drug tests have come back with a positive result.
The new laws were introduced in March 2015 and since that date, 24,541 drivers have been stopped. Of these 12,268 revealed traces of drugs in the drivers’ system.
This is probably a low estimate on the true figures, however, as these statistics only relate to the “drugalyser” kits that test for cocaine and cannabis.
A blood test at a police station is required to test for other common drugs such as ecstasy, heroin, or prescription drugs like diazepam and temazepam. The figures are also probably significantly out as a third of police forces were unable to provide figures for the request. Many said that the records aren’t stored digitally, if at all, as there are no government guidelines set up for recording such tests as there are for drink-driving or speeding.
The force with the highest number of positive results was Gwent, with 64% of drivers showing traces in their system. West Mercia police and Thames Valley were next with 54%.
The most stops were carried out by London’s Metropolitan police who tested 7000 drivers over the two-year period, and where 36% returned positive results.
Overall figures fell by 5% over the two year period, while the number of tests in 2015/16 had doubled by the period of 2016/17.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The new testing kit is starting to reveal the true scale of drug driving.
“With almost three million – or one in twelve – adults using illegal drugs in England and Wales each year, the chances of meeting someone on the road impaired by cannabis, cocaine or the like is significant.”
Current legislation dictates that you are classified as over the limit if you have any trace of an illegal drug in your system, but even legal, prescription drugs which can influence your ability to drive can put you over the limit. In fact, any substance that potentially impairs you such as flu remedies or hayfever tablets which are not “non-drowsy” can lead to accidents and prosecution.
Those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs face a driving ban of at least 12 months and a fine of up to £5000. In 2016 the use of drugs while behind the wheel was a contributing factor in 62 fatal accidents.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “We are not surprised by the figures.
“When drug limits were first discussed it was clear the real extent of the problem could only be guessed at.
“It is worrying that the level of drug driving is so high but now at least we have a well tried and tested system for catching the criminals.
The next step is to get roadside equipment approved for more illegal drugs such as ecstasy and legal highs.”
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Freeman & Co. are a specialist firm of road traffic and criminal defence solicitors based in Manchester but with nationwide coverage.
Freeman & Co. specialise in a wide variety of road traffic cases, ranging from drink driving, speeding and mobile phone offences, to name but a few.
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