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Are you aware of the changes to drug driving laws?

In March this year, the government will be bringing in new laws that give police more power to prosecute drug driving offences in the UK. These changes are not just for illegal drugs, so it’s important that you know the facts to make sure that you drive within the limits of the new drug driving law.

Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is a dangerous pastime, both for you and other road users. Illegal and over-the-counter drugs can have a huge effect on your concentration, reaction times, and generally how well you drive your vehicle.

Don’t be tempted to think that because you don’t take illegal drugs that the new drug driving laws don’t apply to you. They do.

Prosecution for drug driving carries heavy penalties:

·         12 month driving ban;

·         A criminal record;

·         Up to £5000 fine and / or 6 month prison sentence.

Other knock on effects such as loss of your job, higher car insurance and even visa restrictions are also a strong possibility.

So it’s important you understand the new drug driving law and the drugs in question, so you drive safely and in the comfort that you know you are within the limits of the law.

Two groups of drugs have been created to focus on the different type of drugs in question, each with different limits.

Zero Tolerance Drugs

 A `zero tolerance` group focuses on illegal recreation drugs. The limits set for this group are very low, so even the smallest amount in your system could lead to prosecution.

This zero tolerance group includes:

·         Cannabis

·         Ecstasy

·         Ketamine

·         Methylamphetamine

·         Cocaine

·         Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)

·         Heroin

Controlled Drugs

This second group of drugs covers those that are legal and licensed but often open to abuse. The limits are higher for this group, as in many cases their presence in the blood stream could be for therapeutic or medical purposes.

This group includes:

·         Clonazepam

·         Flunitrazepam

·         Lorazepam

·         Oxazepan

·         Temazepam

·         Methadone

·         Morphine

·         Amphetamines

You could have a medical defence if caught driving having used substances from this group.

Medical defence

Most people use prescription drugs or some sort of medication from time to time. Whether that’s over-the-counter drugs or those prescribed by your GP.

So if you’re on prescribed medication, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of your prescription in your vehicle to show police officers, if you are pulled over.

It’s also important to get some advice from your GP and make sure you fully understand the side effects of any medication you take for your safety and that of other road users.

Driving whilst impaired is still an offence

In short, if you are unfit to drive, no matter what reason you give, you shouldn’t be driving.

There is no medical defence for driving whilst impaired, and you could still be prosecuted under existing road traffic laws.

For example, lack of sleeping is not illegal, but if being tired affects your driving, you shouldn’t be driving.

Taking prescription drugs and medication is the same. As soon as it affects your ability to drive a vehicle safely, you shouldn’t be driving, and you can be prosecuted if caught.

What happens if you get pulled over

It’s difficult for the police to prove whether you are driving under the influence of drugs on the spot. So if you are pulled over by a police officer, and they suspect that you are driving whilst under the influence of drugs, they may carry out a field test.

You will be asked to perform a few tasks to show the officers that you are not impaired and fit to drive your vehicle at that time. If they are not satisfied, then you could be arrested and taken to a police station and asked to provide a blood sample.

Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is currently a driving offence, but the new drug driving just gives the police more powers to prosecute those who are driving when they really shouldn’t be.

The new drug driving law is about being safe behind the wheel of your vehicle. So make sure you think carefully about your ability to drive if you are taking any kind of drugs, either controlled or illegal.

If you are unsure about how the new drug driving law, speak to your GP or other healthcare professional, or visit http://think.direct.gov.uk/drug-driving.htmlfor more information.

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22/01/2015 01:18