Following our recent article in respect of drug drivers potentially being on the increase, more recent statistics obtained by the BBC via a Freedom of Information request sheds light onto the severity of the situation.
Almost 25,000 motorists in England & Wales tested positive for driving whilst under the influence of a controlled drug within a three year period, figures have revealed.
40 police forces across the nation released data which suggests that cannabis-users are the most likely perpetrators, with 8,336 motorists testing positive. Cocaine-users were the next largest group with 3,064 recorded arrests between March 2015 and January 2018.
The government has stated that “tough” new laws have seen a rise in dangerous drivers being caught, but the question still remains as to why the new legislation is not acting as a deterrent. Safety charity, ‘Brake,’ has called for more investment in road policing and we agree that this may be the only way to deter potential drug drivers.
The drug driving legislation is relatively new, having only been brought into force in 2015, and whilst campaigns may give some indication of what is considered “peak” time for potential offenders, they do not seem to be enough to deter motorists all year-round. Many of us know friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances that have been convicted of drink driving and are fully aware of the consequences. The same cannot be said for drug driving. The whole idea of drug driving legislation is not as prevalent in public consciousness, so the “it won’t happen to me” mind-set may be a factor.
The new drug driving legislation, which came into force in March 2015, more closely reflects drink driving legislation, in that it includes set limits for a number of legal, prescribed drugs. Traces of illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis were set so low as to almost be a zero-tolerance approach.
Out of 4,491 motorists who were drug tested by Cheshire Police, only 2,377 were positive. This shows that a significant number of motorists being stopped provided a negative result compared to those who tested positive.
Under UK law, an officer can stop a vehicle if it has reasonable grounds to suspect an offence is being committed. The figures make one wonder what standard of driving was exhibited by those 2,114 motorists who were stopped but not charged to make an officer think they were under the influence of drugs.
The Metropolitan Police recorded 3,254 tests, Essex 1,857, West Mercia 1,704 and Merseyside 1,517. The data suggests that about 43% of all tests were positive across the 24 police forces that were able to provide the total number of tests undertaken.
The director of ‘Brake’, Joshua Harris, said that the figures “hint at the true scale” of drug driving and must serve as a “wake-up call” to the government.
Mr Harris went on to say that “the government must prioritise the approval of roadside screening devices that can detect all banned drugs and set up road policing levels to deter offending.”
At present, the roadside devices in use can only screen for cannabis and cocaine, but they fail to account for the other illegal drugs used recreationally. Devices that are able to detect a wider range of drugs such as ketamine, MDMA, GHB etc. could see the number of positive tests come in-line with the number of tests conducted.
Author, Neil Sargeant is a Road Traffic specialist within the Duncan Lewis Crime Department, based in Harrow.
Neil has specialised in Road Traffic Law since 2008, establishing close working relationships with some of the country’s leading experts in this field and maintaining an outstanding record of client acquittals. His specialist expertise stretches across all road traffic law, but is most extensive in:
For specialist advice please call Neil on 020 3114 1145 or email him on email@example.com.
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