Sir Peter North QC, the author of the landmark report that introduced new drug driving laws into England and Wales, has now urged Scotland to take the same approach in order to save lives.
Sir Peter, who as an internationally renowned expert, was commissioned by the UK government to examine the laws surrounding both drink driving and drug driving.
His report concluded that there was a “significant drug driving problem” which was “out of all proportion” to the number of injuries and deaths being reported.
In the light of Sir Peter’ report, England and Wales introduced new drug-driving limits and road side “drugalyser” saliva tests which detect the presence of cocaine and cannabis. These new laws were introduced in 2015.
In a recent newspaper interview, Sir Peter stated: “It was generally known there was a problem with drink-driving, because it was an offence which was easily detected with breathalysers. What we didn’t know – because there was really no means of knowing – was what the problems really were with drug-driving.
“Although it was an offence to drive while under the influence of drink or drugs, the police didn’t have the equivalent of a breathalyser law to detect drugs – so by and large people got away with it.
“In the first year after the law came into effect in England and Wales, in March 2015, there was a rise of up to 800 per cent [in some police force areas] and there were 8,000 arrests.”
He added: “Our suspicion that under the stone there was an awful lot of stuff lying has been proved to be true.
“I wasn’t surprised as we thought there was a lot of drug-driving. The police simply didn’t have the means of dealing with it.”
In that same interview, Sir Peter applauded Scotland for their lowering of the drink driving limit, an issue that was also raised in his report and yet to be implemented in England and Wales.
He said that Scotland’s lowering of the drink driving limit was far easier to implement than tackling the issue of drug driving, which needed evaluations of technology and evidence.
Continuing, Sir Peter stated: “My personal view is that Scotland has had the heavy lifting done by England, if you like – which is reasonable. Scotland now has evidence that England has a serious problem which has been identified and is being dealt with – and I see no reason why Scotland shouldn’t now follow suit.
“My view would be you have got the same problem [in Scotland] as we have in England, you ought to get on with dealing with it. It saves lives – that is the issue.”
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