The law concerning drug-driving is set to expand to include legally obtainable drugs.
The new rules, which will come into force in England and Wales on 2nd March, were introduced in an effort to cut down on a rising number of drug-driving incidents. Last year an estimated 200 deaths were caused by drug-driving.
Additionally, the law will now allow police to stop motorists and have their blood tested for the presence of sixteen different substances, including morphine, methadone and diazepam.
Drug detection specialist, PC Jon Lansley, told AOL Cars:
“Prescription and other medications easily purchased at pharmacists, such as Night Nurse, can make drivers very drowsy and severely affect their driving.
“These drugs make it clear they can affect driving on the labels, but often when drivers feel unwell they dose themselves up on these and don’t realise the consequences.
“These cold remedies can sometimes be safe in normal doses, but you’ll find most people take more than the recommended amount and then vision can blur and other functions vital to safe driving start to deteriorate too.”
The argument from Lansley runs that many over-the-counter medicines render drivers as unfit to drive as other controlled substances, including alcohol and recreational drugs. As such, eight over-the-counter drugs should and will be brought under the drug-driving umbrella.
While many will argue that is the state of the driver that is most important, it is worth considering how medicines are sold and why they are used. Many of these eight drugs are specifically marketed at promoting a consumer’s health and well being. The manufacturer of Night Nurse claims their product offers, “complete 24 hour relief from cold and flu.” It is a substance that people consume to feel better not to purposively alter their mental state. Night Nurse is now being grouped with marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy.
It is important to determine whether a motorists driving was impaired, but it is also worth exploring why this is the case.
A 2013 study from Cardiff University showed that driving with a cold had a negative impact on someone’s driving the equivalent of drinking three or four pints of beer. Those who had drunk four pints found their reactions dulled by 15 milliseconds. Those with colds found their reactions slowed by a further 21 milliseconds.
What fuels the worries of many observers is the possibility of penalising motorists who, despite an ignorance of the facts, are simply are trying to act lawfully. Many will claim that ignorance is no excuse; others will balk at the suggestion.
However, jailing someone who was genuinely trying to act within the law is almost universally called abhorrent.
North of the border
The changes will only affect motorists in England and Wales. However, based on the response, we may well see these measures migrate north in the near future. We will be closely following any progress and will keep you abreast of any developments when they arise.
If you have been charged with drug driving, it is imperative you call our team as soon as possible. We offer a free initial consultation to explore and discuss your individual circumstances.