Drivers now face a minimum one-year driving ban, fines of up to £5,000 and a criminal record if convicted of driving under the influence of drugs.
The new offence is intended to tackle the 200 or so drug-driving related deaths each year on UK roads. We asked our panel of experts what impact the new drug driving law would have on fleets.
Do you think that the new drug-driving law is a good idea?
Roger Singer, managing director, DDE+ Anything that reduces road casualties must be a good thing.
However, it has been an offence to drive while unfit through drugs for nearly as long as it has been an offence to drink and drive.
The new offence of driving with a specified controlled drug, over a fixed limit, will not require evidence of impairment, only of the existence of the drug in sufficient quantity.
One of the issues with this is that the most common drug on which people drive is cannabis; this can be detected in blood for two to three days afterwards, sometimes even longer in a heavy user, and yet it is unlikely to be affecting an individual’s driving ability for anything like that amount of time.
Matt Humphreys, head of safety, health and quality, Biffa There are approximately 200 drug-related road deaths each year, but it is thought that the actual number is much higher as testing is not currently an automatic process in the event of an accident.
Any legislation that tightens up this law and makes it harder for perpetrators to get away with it should have a long-term benefit.
Kevin Bourne, transport manager, Davidsons Chemists It’s a very good idea… and about time!
I feel this is an area that has been slow in being dealt with, probably because of limitations in the current technology for determining drug levels and resulting impairment.
Employers throughout the country should be updating their company policy and health and safety manuals with their desire to provide a duty of care to both their employees and the public with reference to the new offence.
Should fleets consider some form of training to educate drivers about drug-driving issues?
Roger Singer Training to ensure fleet managers understand the implications of this in their driving workforce is essential. To extend this to drivers would be good practice – in this context alcohol is a drug too.
Drugs and alcohol are so much a part of our society that not to address this through training and education could be said to be negligent.
Matt Humphreys The general levels of knowledge of the dangers of drug-driving are not widely known in the same way as alcohol impairment.
It would be easy to add something into existing training regimes to raise awareness in this area, but the Government also has a responsibility to carry out additional campaigns in the same way it does for drink-driving.
Kevin Bourne Initially, all drivers should be informed of the new offence, the tests that police have available, the implications of being caught etc, and then they should be supplied with updated company manuals.
I’d like to think that most professional drivers will not need reminding of the consequences of being found guilty of this offence: lose your licence and lose your livelihood.