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
    +9

    Comment number 183.

    @166. BluesBerry - Having used methadone, believe me, it is not safe to drive under it's influence

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 182.

    This won't change anything there are too many loopholes and grey areas etc that will mean this will never pass. There are drugs that can stay in you system for months and others that metabolise very quickly making it very difficult to prove that the drug was taken before or during the journey. The reason this hasn't been done before is because it does NOT work and been proven to be unreliable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 181.

    172.steve

    "...As upwards of 200 innocent people each year are killed...as a result of this activity .I am bemused as to how anyone could regard it as a non violent crime!..."

    ===

    The harm is unintentional. The law makes this distinction (not me), otherwise the operators of many more construction concerns would be serving time for murder, following the deaths of their workers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 180.

    Says Theunknowntruth (#169): "Would just like to make it explicitly clear that driving after smoking weed will NOT impair ability to drive."

    That's right. And each driver among us is the best judge of that ability. We own the road, or the footpath, or the front wall of that house, or whatever. If we feel good then we're safe, and so is everybody else in the vicinity of our wheeled weapon.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 179.

    @164
    The fact is that when I have been to the pub, I do not get behind the wheel, so I walk or get a cab, if it is my local, which is not far from a 24 hour co-op based at a garage, I sometimes will go and grab a fresh pizza, yet when I arrive they are always a bunch of people there stinking of the “gange” and off their faces getting munch, surly they need the same treatment as drink drivers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 178.

    Thought the the jails were full already, so where all those convicted going to go ?.

  • 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
    +3

    Comment number 176.

    169.theunknowntruth
    7 Minutes ago
    Would just like to make it explicitly clear that driving after smoking weed will NOT impair ability to drive. All the symptoms add up to a more careful (if slightly paranoid) driver.


    +++
    What about pilots? Are they safer too? Ditto surgeons, machine operators etc.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 175.

    I have to say I dislike campaigns like this, I would much prefer our laws were based on clear evidence not on some form of moral blackmail. My questions would be how many lives are likely to be saved? What is the overall cost? and are we sending the right signal to drug users for example by setting a limit at all. This sounds like a typical govt crowd pleaser a tory get tough on crime thing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 174.

    7. Eddy from Waring
    3 HOURS AGO
    Since we're so car-dependent outside London, a driving ban is, in effect, a form of imprisonment, i.e. loss of liberty.

    ++++++
    Killing somebody because you are intoxicated by drink/drugs is also a loss of liberty to the innocent.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 173.

    So many problems with this! Ibuprofen CAN give a false positive for Cannabis! Registered addicts getting methadone or real heroin. I have seen clients leave pharmacies and clinics and the DRIVE off. NHS must inform DVLA and licences must be revoked. Cancer patients on Oramorph will lose their licences. Diabetics on isulin who become hypo CAN and have been charged with DUI ! Needs careful drafting.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 172.

    Drug-driving is a serious matter but prison is too widely used as an expensive penalty for non-violent offenders in the UK.
    -
    As upwards of 200 innocent people each year are killed and thousands more are injured as a result of this activity .I am bemused as to how anyone could regard it as a non violent crime!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 171.

    "164.Matthew
    This would finally stop his drug use, only those that profit from the sale of drugs would be against UK wide implementation of Street labs."

    Presumably you'd be including alcohol and codine in your street labs - both can adversely affect behaviour just as much as illegal drugs - should alcohol not therefore be banned using your agrument?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 170.

    The technology exists to prevent all people found guilty of drink/drug driving from getting behind the wheel again.
    However this COSTS and the car manufacturers aint gonna pay, the public aint gonna pay and the government, who should if they are serious about these things, deffo won't so what you have now is probably the best for a long time.
    Watch your premiums rise.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 169.

    Would just like to make it explicitly clear that driving after smoking weed will NOT impair ability to drive. All the symptoms add up to a more careful (if slightly paranoid) driver. It's been tested and everything, think they even proved it on 'fifth gear'. Luckily for the politicians, they get someone else to drive them. But they're not out of touch at all....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 168.

    Says Megan (#143): "Perhaps it would be best to have a single offence of 'Driving whilst impaired' which could cover drink, drugs (the illegal sort), distractions such as mobile phones, and any other factor. [. . .]"

    Sure. But any such law will need to specify each of those ways of impairment.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 167.

    152. ommadawn2000
    129.Oldm8
    Your evidence for that claim being?

    Alcohol use can and easily does become abuse.
    NHS Alcohol related Hospital admissions (2009-10) 1,057,000 over one million
    Road accident deaths (2007) 460, others injuries 13,000
    Take a walk through any city centre late Fri Sat night to see alcohol at work.
    You cannot defend the Class A drug alcohol as safe. I'm off to the pub.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 166.

    I agree with the principle, but I see a lot of potential grey areas. e.g. Person assigned to methadone, takes it faithfully, has accident - where does liability lie?
    I'm not sure the Courts, legal system, etc. are set-up to enforce such a law. Also, innocent folk could be caught in the cross-hairs with all the "medication" that is being handed out.
    Again, I agree in principle, but...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 165.

    "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 they know absolutely that it is a massive problem but at the same time they admit they dont really know anything..

    Who pays these people!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 164.

    @149 (Part)
    Many of the drug users I know use drugs morning, noon and night, you try and say something and they get angry and dismissive of what you say, this is very hard if it is someone you love and care about i.e. my cousin. This would finally stop his drug use, only those that profit from the sale of drugs would be against UK wide implementation of Street labs.
    Please see part 3. thx

 

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