UK law states that you’re unfit to drive if either:
- You’re unfit for driving due to the use of legal or illegal drugs
- If you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your bloodstream. This applies even if the drugs you’re taking have no impact on your driving.
Many people are unsure of what ‘legal’ drugs include. They include any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines. Some of these will have warnings indicating that it is unsafe to use them whilst driving. If the medicine does not directly state this, it’s best to talk to your GP or pharmacist to double check whether it’ll have any impact on your driving.
What happens is you’re stopped?
The police have the powers to stop you and ask you to perform a field impairment assessment if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests and can include asking you to walk in a straight line. Alternatively, they could use a roadside drug testing kit to check for the use of cannabis and cocaine.
If the police have reasonable belief that you’ve taken drugs and therefore unfit to drive, they can arrest you and you’ll have to take a urine test or blood test at a police station. If this shows as positive, you will be charged.
From March 2015, UK drug driving laws changed. The new law now means that it’s illegal to drive if you have a certain amount of an illegal drug in your bloodstream. This is regardless of whether the drug even affects your driving or not. This is seen a massive surge of arrests in users of may not have posed a threat on the road but nevertheless can be convicted due to drugs in their bloodstream.
The law changed a zero tolerance approach to 8 drugs associated with an illegal use. If you’re over the limit, you will be convicted. This limit is set high enough so that accidental exposure cannot be used as excuse.
Some of the most common drugs and the threshold limit in microgrammes per litre of blood are listed below.
- Cannabis 2µg/L
- Cocaine 10µg/L
- Ketamine 20µg/L
- Heroin 5µg/L
- MDMA 10µg/L
However, there is no real guidance on what dosage of drug would equate to being over the limit. This is due to there being too many variables involved. Such as your body mass, where different individuals may break down the drug quicker than others. Furthermore, eating and drinking can have an effect on the amount of the drug in your bloodstream.
In England and Wales, it’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body, if these drugs impair your driving. Furthermore, if you haven’t been prescribed a certain drug and you’re over the limit, you can also be prosecuted for this.
You should talk to your doctor about driving if you’ve prescribed any of the following drugs:
- amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline
- morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
You can only drive when taking these drugs if you’ve been prescribed them and are following a medical professional advice on how exactly to take them. Furthermore, the drugs shouldn’t cause you to be unfit, even if you’re over the specific limits.
This law does not cover Scotland, however, you can still be arrested for unfit driving when under the influence of drugs.
Penalties for Drug Driving
If you are convicted for drug driving, you will get:
- A minimum one year driving ban
- A potential unlimited fine
- Up to 6 months in prison
- A criminal record
Alongside all of the above, your driving licence will show that you’re convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.
Other problems you will likely face if you’re convicted for driving driving can include your car insurance premiums skyrocketing. In addition to this, if your job involves driving, for example truck drivers or delivery. Your employer will be able to see the conviction on your licence. It is entirely up to the employer whether to terminate your employment or to continue. However, the potential to lose your livelihood is entirely possible. You can also have problems travelling to certain countries for example the USA.
In conclusion, drug laws have changed to become far more strict and now based upon the level of drug in your blood, regardless of your actual driving. Therefore, it’s important to check how prescription drugs impact your driving by talking to your doctor, regardless of whether you believe it impacts you or not.
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