Despite concerns that new drug driving laws would prove difficult to enforce across the country, 19 arrests were made over the first 9 days of the law being introduced. Eight of those arrests were for driving under the influence of cannabis made by Sussex police and, if convicted, all of the motorists are set to receive the minimum one year ban, as well as a possible prison sentence and a fine of up to £5,000.
Under previous laws, the police and prosecution had to prove that the driver’s ability was impaired and that it was the drugs in their system that caused this impairment. However, the new rules do not have the same requirement. The introduction of the roadside drugalyser means that any driver that is found to be over the maximum limit for a range of drugs, but primarily cannabis or cocaine, can be prosecuted.
The new laws include a minimum 12 month driving disqualification, and anybody charged with the offence will receive a fine of up to £5,000 and could also face a prison sentence. Prison sentences are likely to be reserved for repeat offenders, or for those that cause accidents or injury as a result of driving while over the limit.
The new law has caused some controversy since its launch. Critics have pointed to the inclusion of prescription drugs among the list of controlled substances, but doctors have said that sticking to prescriptions should ensure that drivers remain under the limit, and lawmakers have said that there is a medical defence that can be argued in court. Some critics were more scathing of the likelihood that the new law would be used, and some forces were not prepared for the launch and initial use of the drugalyser.
The government introduced the new drug driving law to help cut the number of deaths and accidents caused by those that have taken drugs before getting behind the wheel. It also passed two devices, capable of testing cannabis and cocaine levels in the body at the roadside, making it possible for drivers to be stopped and tested in a matter of minutes, using a saliva or sweat sample.