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UK government to consider new penalties for drug-drivers

Motorists caught driving under the influence of drugs could be forced to participate in rehabilitation courses as part of a new government crackdown

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British drivers caught behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs by the police could be forced to participate in rehabilitation courses before their ban is lifted as part of a new government crackdown – a penalty that is already in place for drink-drivers.

In a call for evidence before any new laws are considered, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commented that “there is no room to be lax on drug-driving” as drug-related motoring arrests continue to rise. He called drug-driving a “hidden problem”, and posited that mandatory rehabilitation courses for drug-related offenders could “stamp out drug-driving for good”.

According to a toxicology analysis conducted by King’s College London, of the 3,377 UK driver casualties tested for drugs from 2014 to 2018, 58% of fatalities were found to have at least one drug in their system.

The same study says that the most common illegal drug found in these tests was cannabis, and the UK government also says that this call for evidence will look at how medical cannabis in particular impacts road safety.

British motoring fatalities with drugs detected by category, 2014 to 2018

Type of drugNumber of fatalitiesPercentage of drug-related fatalities
Non-Psychoactive medications1,19141%
Psychoactive medications with low
impairment potential
Psychoactive medications with impairment
Medical treatment drugs35712%
Query psychoactive drugs45416%
Drugs of abuse98334%
Source: Toxicology data analysis feasibility study, King’s College London

The government says that there were over 12,000 convictions related to drug-driving offences in 2019, 44% of which were given to repeat offenders.

This call for evidence explains that non-attendees to drink-driving rehabilitation courses are over twice as likely to commit a new drink-driving offence within three years, so by offering high-risk drug-driving offenders the same support, the number of repeat offenders is likely to decrease.

The UK police has been permitted to conduct roadside tests for drugs on potential suspects since 2015 – using oral saliva drug testing kits. The government plans to seek views on other drink and drug driving matters late this year, such as failing to stop after a collision and the criminal use of vehicles.

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.