New rules on driving under the effects of drugs have come into effect from today.
Drivers are to expect prosecution if they are caught having used illegal drugs or if they exceed the new limits for nine prescription drugs.
Which drugs does the ban include?
Illegal substances such as ketamine, LSD, cocaine, cannabis and heroin will be screened in “zero-tolerance” legislation through the use of roadside “drugalysers” – that work similar to breathalysers – and also urine tests at police stations.
Nine prescription drugs so far have legal limits set per litre of blood. Those using them within recommended amounts will not be penalised.
What if you take a listed prescribed drug?
Government guidelines state that medication should be taken as advised by a doctor and driving should only be done within the limits.
Proof of using the specific legal drug, such as the container, should be kept in the car in case of being stopped by police.
What are the consequences?
The penalties for drug-driving are the same as for drink-driving.
A conviction could carry up to a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record, a fine of up to £5000 or up to 6 months in prison – or both.
New Highway Code rule 96 wording
The Highway Code has been rewritten to factor in the new drug-drive rules.
You MUST NOT drive under the influence of drugs or medicine. For medicines, check with your doctor or pharmacist and do not drive if you are advised that you may be impaired.
You MUST NOT drive if you have illegal drugs or certain medicines in your blood above specified limits. It is highly dangerous so never take illegal drugs if you intend to drive; the effects are unpredictable, but can be even more severe than alcohol and result in fatal or serious road crashes. Illegal drugs have been specified at very low levels so even small amounts of use could be above the specified limits. The limits for certain medicines have been specified at higher levels, above the levels generally found in the blood of patients who have taken normal therapeutic doses. If you are found to have a concentration of a drug above its specified limit in your blood because you have been prescribed or legitimately supplied a particularly high dose of medicine, then you can raise a statutory medical defence, provided your driving was not impaired by the medicine you are taking.