A new law, which comes into force in England and Wales today, will make it easier for Northumbria Police to detect and prosecute drug drivers.
The new offence ‘driving with certain drugs above specified limits’ has been introduced to help police catch those who put the lives of others at risk while driving under the influence of drugs.
The legislation has significantly lowered the acceptable limits of certain drugs in the blood stream and set a legal limit for officers to test people against.
This makes it easier for police because in the past officers had to prove that people were suspected of being unfit to drive through drugs by their demeanour and their manner of driving before they could test them. The new change makes this process much simpler and will allow officers to identify drug-drivers easier.
Officers are already trained to look for the signs of drug use when stopping drivers and if stopped a driver may be required to take a roadside test which will indicate whether they have taken drugs. The test is carried out using specialist roadside kits and involves officers using a saliva-testing device on a driver. If a driver tests positive for drugs they face being arrested and being prosecuted.
If charged with a drug-driving offence the penalties are a minimum of a one-year ban, a fine of up to £5,000, the possibility of a prison sentence and a conviction which will stay on your driving licence for 11 years.
Northumbria Police officers will be issued with the kits today will be carrying out tests on any motorists suspected of driving while unfit through drugs. The activity will form part of the force’s road safety Operation Dragoon which has been running since March 2014.
Motor Patrols Chief Inspector John Heckels said: “A driver under the influence of drugs puts everyone on the roads at risk. Drug-driving is as serious an issue as drink driving and we will look to identify and take action against anyone who thinks it is acceptable.
“The new legislation will be a great help in us cracking down on drug-drivers. It brings drug driving limits in line with the drink-drive laws and police now have a specific measurable limit to test those suspected of drug-driving against.
“From today, officers out on the roads will be equipped with the new kit and the new legislation, so anyone who does take drugs and then gets behind the wheel should be warned that officers are on the look-out for them and will take action to get them off our roads.
“We are not looking to catch people who take prescribed drugs out, that is not what this new legislation is about. It has been introduced to help officers take action against a minority who wrongly think it’s acceptable to take drugs and get behind the wheel of their car.
Although the aim is to catch drivers who use recreational drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ketamine and ecstasy, a number of prescription drugs are included within the new law.
Restricted medications include: Clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, methadone and morphine.
Drivers who are prescribed these drugs should be aware of the new legislation and speak with their GP if they have any concerns. You can find more information at think.direct.gov.uk