Drug-driving law set to be introduced in Queen's Speech

 
Traffic on a motorway The government believes the law change will make it easier for police to prosecute drug-drivers

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Drug-driving in England, Scotland and Wales could become a specific offence with a jail term and fine, under a new law expected in the Queen's Speech.

Police have to show driving has been impaired by drugs to prosecute.

But under the plans, drivers could face up to six months in jail for driving with certain controlled drugs in your body in excess of specified limits.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said legislation would give police powers to "remove this blight".

In the future, police will be equipped with handheld detection devices to test saliva at the roadside.

Offenders could face a fine of up to £5,000, a driving ban of at least 12 months as well as a prison term.

Mr Penning told BBC Breakfast it had taken so long to bring in such a law because testing had always been seen as "very complicated".

He said in Germany, Spain and Australia this was already being done.

"What we are saying is drug-driving is blighting this country and people are being killed and seriously injured on a regular basis.

"We don't know exactly how many because we're not testing correctly so bring the technology through, give the police the powers and remove this blight."

He said five different roadside saliva-testing devices were being considered at the Home Office which is expected to give approval by the end of the year.

Gary and Natasha Groves on their campaign against drug-driving after their daughter, Lillian, was killed

A scientific review panel is also looking at what drugs the devices would test for.

That panel has been considering a scientific case for a new offence and looking at the effect of individual drugs, such as cocaine and cannabis on driving.

The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be decided following advice from the panel and public consultation.

"You'll be tested for drink first because, that's the natural assumption, that if a policeman thinks you're impaired, he'll test you for drink," said Mr Penning.

"If you pass that and he still thinks you're impaired, he's actually going to take a saliva swab from you at the side of the road so we're going to replicate what happens with drink for all the legislation going all the way through."

Start Quote

It's important, not just for us, but for other families to come”

End Quote Gary Groves

Roadside tests would give police the powers to arrest people for drug-driving.

"Then we're going to have a new piece of equipment in the station which will do exactly the same as what the drink testing does which will actually give the prosecution the evidential test to take you to court."

Gary Groves, whose 14-year-old daughter Lillian Groves was killed outside her home in Croydon, south London, by a driver who admitted taking drugs before the accident, said the legislation was "very important".

"It's important, not just for us, but for other families to come," he told Breakfast.

"Hopefully we can get this through - we're trying to push for zero tolerance but we'll just keep pushing and pushing."

Lillian's mother Natasha Groves said other parents had come forward.

"You think you are on your own but obviously there is a far wider problem, it is not just not us out there on our own. It happens all the time."

'Not acceptable'

Joanna Bailey, from road safety charity Brake, told BBC News: "Drink-driving's not acceptable, it's not acceptable to drug-drive either."

The law is to be included in the Crime, Communications and Court Bill.

Prime Minister David Cameron said they wanted to get "drugalysers rolled out more quickly".

Mr Cameron, who met the Groves family last year, said: "As they said at the time, it simply can't be right that a schoolgirl like Lillian can lose her life and then we discover we don't have the laws or the technology to punish drug-drivers properly.

"I hope now that something good can come out of their tragic loss."

The proposed law affects motorists in England, Scotland and Wales.

Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment said it was working towards creating an offence of driving with a "named substance in your body".

A spokeswoman said it was currently illegal to drive in Northern Ireland whilst impaired through drink or drugs.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 363.

    No views on this one way or the other; I would guess most people driving under the influence of drink or drugs are never detected due to the lack of police on patrol. It does, however, make me wonder what's next; banned for driving under the influence of a stinking cold, or hayfever, or a bad headache, or while emotional upset, or listening to loud music, all of which can affect concentration.. ?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 331.

    For all those who think this law should NOT be imposed, speak to the families who are the victims. Be it drink or drugs nobody's brain is completely alert when under the influence. The one thing everybody has to remember is a driver is in control of a killing machine. It is to this end that everyone should be in a correct state of mind when driving.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 192.

    I hope this ridiculous nonsense gets no further. Many drugs cause no impairment. Some actually speed up reaction time! Some have the opposite effect.... Cannabis can still be in your system for a month after using it even though you are no longer under the influence of it after just a few hours.... The potential for injustice is huge. The complicated nature of this is why it's never been done!!

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 177.

    The existing drink driving law should just be amended to cover all forms of impairment and carelessness. This is not the way and this is a waste of money.

  • rate this
    +56

    Comment number 80.

    I am just finishing up a 3 year ban for my first/only charge, which was drug related. I had no drugs on my person, passed the breathalyser, and was deemed fit by a doctor. I was arrested after my car broke down, and the blood test showed levels below the accurate measurement level of the equipment - I had taken something 48 hours earlier. Losing my car, job & house has ruined my life. Be warned!

 

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