Crispin Kenyon and Michael Ryley, partners at Weightmans LLP, cover the new drug driving laws.
We are advising professional drivers, fleet operators and those companies with grey fleets to review their policies and procedures in the light of the new drug driving laws which come into force on 2 March 2015. The current offence of being unfit to drive through drink or drugs will be extended, making it unlawful to drive with certain drugs in the bloodstream or to drive with in excess of a prescribed level of certain other drugs. All businesses who have employees driving in the course of their work should be thinking about how to ensure that their drivers will be compliant with these laws.
We think many drivers will be surprised by the list of prescription drugs on the list, so one important duty for employers will be to ensure that all drivers are made aware of exactly what will constitute an offence, bearing in mind the harsh penalties which await offenders – a minimum ban of a year, a fine up to £5000 and an endorsement on the licence lasting 11 years.
Raising awareness is an important part of occupational road risk management. However, we are of the view that businesses should go further and should be considering whether to conduct their own internal random testing, so as to limit the risk of sending vehicles out onto the road with drivers who are in contravention of the law. Business would be disrupted by drivers being banned; insurance cover could be affected; fleet operators should be mindful of vicarious liability if accidents are caused by drivers over the limit; and reputational damage could follow.
Where businesses decide to introduce internal testing, we would advise that they introduce a clear policy with no room left for doubt about the consequences of drivers failing a test or of refusing to be tested. Employees should be required to sign up to any such policy. Employers will need to ensure that they are recording accurate results – that might prove difficult initially due to concerns about the reliability of the testing devices available.