A report by the British Medical Journal out today shows drivers who smoke cannabis within three hours of getting behind the wheel double the risk of a serious crash.

In the UK, 18% of people killed in road crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their blood, with cannabis the most common. In a recent survey by Brake and Direct Line one in nine young drivers (11%) admitted driving on illegal drugs.

Currently, there is no law against driving with illegal drugs in your body, meaning police have to prove impairment. This makes it difficult for the police to test and prosecute drivers who risk lives by drug driving and means low conviction rates compared to drink driving.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning has confirmed the government intends to introduce a new drug-driving offence. He recently announced a panel of experts will advise on the technicalities of introducing the new offence, including whether it is possible to set limits equivalent to the drink drive limit. The government is also in the process of introducing drug screening devices into police stations.

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. Brake supports bereaved and seriously injured victims of road crashes and knows too well the horrifying devastation caused by drug drivers. We are pleased the government has expressed commitment to tackling drug driving; we now need urgent action to bring in this desperately needed change in the law - taking a tough, zero tolerance stance - and roadside screening devices to create a strong deterrent against this heinous and highly dangerous behaviour."

Brake is urging the government to move swiftly to create a law with a zero tolerance approach and to push through approval for roadside drug screening devices, similar to alcohol breathalysers, enabling widespread enforcement checks and a significant deterrent. Evidence shows a range of illegal drugs affect the skills, coordination and judgment required for driving, so it is fair to assume that drivers with these drugs in their system are impaired.

For the past decade, successive governments have promised to tackle the scourge of drug driving but failed to make inroads. Drug driving laws and roadside testing equipment work in other countries including Germany, Australia and Finland so there is no reason to delay in the UK.

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 0935 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com