The Roadside Drug-Driving Test 1 Year On
Drug-driving testing with new roadside kits began on 2nd March 2015. Since then a worrying rise in the number of people driving whilst under the influence of drugs has been seen, with males aged 17-34 the most likely to be caught drug-driving.
Figures released by DVLA show from March 2014 to December 2014 there were 848 drug-driving convictions. From March 2015 to October 2015 there were 1,301 convictions showing a 53.4% increase. More worrying are the figures from December 2015 – there were 1888 drug tests with 931 tests producing a positive result, this equates to 49.3% of roadside tests. When compared to the data collected from the whole of 2014 (848 convictions) there were more positive tests in one month of 2015 than for the whole of 2014. This increase could have many possible explanations; it does coincide with the government introducing new tougher measures as well as police forces being given an extra £1million to train officers, purchase drug screening kits and pay for samples taken at the roadside to be analysed so there could be an increase in the amount of roadside tests being carried out overall.
When data is considered from elsewhere in Europe it suggests the increase already seen in drug-driving convictions is just the beginning and that there are further rises in positive drug-driving tests to come. In Germany there are a massive 35,000 roadside tests failed every year, which makes our figures here look very small. Research has shown in England and Wales 1 in 5 people use drugs and current thinking is that our drug-driving problem could equal our drink driving problem. In England and Wales during 2013 there were 72,000 drink-driving convictions so if our drug-driving problem is of a similar size we should expect dramatic figures over the next few years.
Police are being encouraged to pay attention to workplace drug-driving so Managers are being advised to make sure they have a drug-driving policy in place that may include testing and make sure they can prove it is being properly implemented.
There are currently 17 prescription and illegal drugs that can be tested for using the roadside kit;
Many people may be taking prescription medication included on this list and are advised that if they are following the instructions given by their doctor and printed on the medication label there should be no problem. If any driver is concerned they are advised to go to their GP for advice concerning their specific prescription.
The hope is that eventually drug-driving will be as socially unacceptable as drink driving, which is now decreasing across England and Wales. The penalties for being caught drug-driving are just as tough and include;
- A minimum driving ban of 1 year
- An unlimited fine
- Possible imprisonment for up to 6 months
- A criminal record
- A drug-driving conviction visible on a driving licence for 11 years
These are not the only consequences as car insurance costs will definitely rise as those with a drug-driving conviction are seen as a higher risk. If a person drives in their job, a conviction will almost certainly affect their employment and it may make travelling to countries such as the US more difficult.
What do you think would deter people from driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs?
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9 March 2016
Written by Natalie Faughy