Monday, 13 February 2012

New Drug Driving Offence Looming?

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published a report that suggests People who get behind the wheel within a few hours of smoking marijuana may be almost twice as likely to cause an accident as those who are drug-free.

According to the report, 18 percent of drivers causing road deaths have traces of illegal drugs including cannabis in their system. At present, the offence of driving whilst unfit requires the prosecution to prove that the drugs (which can be legal and illegal substances) taken by the driver have caused him to be "impaired". 

Mike Penning, Road Safety Minister, has confirmed the Government is intending to introduce a new drug-driving offence and recently announced a panel of experts who will advise on the technicalities of introducing the new offence, including whether it is possible to set limits similar to the drink-drive limit. Drug screening devices are also being introduced into police stations around the country.

Jeanette Miller, Senior partner of specialist motoring law firm and aka "Miss Justice" said of the proposals: 

"In addition to analysing a defendant's blood for traces of drugs, a number of tests must be conducted by the Police in these cases, which means that it is rare for us to lose a case involving a drug driving allegation.I understand why the Government would wish to change the law to prevent this but am not convinced that a drug-drive limit is the answer."

A recent survey by road safety charity Brake and insurer Direct Line revealed that one in nine young drivers (11 percent) admitted to driving while on illegal drugs. Julie Townsend, Brake Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Tackling drug driving should be a top priority. This report highlights the danger posed by drivers who have smoked cannabis and adds weight to Brake’s calls for widespread testing and prosecution of drivers who selfishly risk lives by taking illegal drugs and driving."


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