Drug driving law comes into force

A NEW offence for driving with certain medications over specified blood concentrations comes into effect from 2 March.

In July 2014 the MHRA informed doctors of the new offence which will be enforced in England and Wales. It is intended to bring enforcement more in line with that for drink driving and will operate in addition to the existing law on drug-impaired driving.

Police will employ roadside tests to check if drivers have taken any of the specified controlled drugs. The type and level of the drugs will then be confirmed by a blood test taken at a police station. The list of controlled drugs falls into two broad groups: so-called "zero tolerance" or commonly abused drugs, such as cannabis or heroin, and mainly licensed medicines though still with significant liability to be abused, such as benzodiazepines and methadone.

The new law sets out a statutory "medical defence" for patients taking medicines in accordance with instructions. Any individual taking a controlled drug from the specified list and in excess of the set limits without a "medical defence" can be prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act.

It is important to stress that under existing legislation it is still against the law to drive if your driving ability is impaired by any medicine.

More information can found on the MHRA website including advice for healthcare providers and for patients.

The date of enforcement in Scotland is dependent on approval of regulations by the Scottish Parliament. The introduction of a similar offence in Northern Ireland is under consideration.