July 17, 2012 Leave a comment
A new drug-driving offence is to become law in 2014, making detection easier for police and penalties tougher for offenders. Drivers can be prosecuted for driving while impaired by drugs at present, but there are few convictions when compared with drink-driving. With no authorised equipment for roadside drug testing in the UK, police conduct what is called a field impairment test, examining such things as pupil dilation, balance and co-ordination.
Under the new system, police will be able to screen suspects at the roadside using a so-called drugalyser and then test their blood or urine for drugs. If samples exceed the specified limit for each drug, the penalty will be up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000 – plus an automatic driving ban of at least a year. Drug limits will be set following public consultation and advice from a panel of drug misuse experts. Operators are obliged to report drivers’ convictions to the traffic commissioner, which could lead to a driver conduct hearing or affect the O-licence at a public inquiry.
The legislation, unveiled during the Queen’s Speech in May, has important implications for the road transport industry. With detection of offenders more likely, drivers will need reminding about the risks of taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Employers need to be aware of their obligations under health and safety at work and corporate manslaughter legislation.