One in five drivers admit to driving on illegal or prescribed drugs
New research published on 2 August by the comparison website Confused.com suggests that one in five UK drivers (19%) admit to having driven under the influence of illegal or prescribed drugs.
Confused.com says this is at odds with data it obtained from police forces across the UK, which shows that only 1,132 people were caught drug driving in 2012, down by 12.5% from 2011 (1,294 arrests). Confused.com says that "this worrying disparity between those who admit to drug-driving and those actually being caught suggests the need for more drug testing on British roads".
Of those who admit to using drugs while driving, 7% were under the influence of illegal drugs and 12% were using prescription drugs.
The study suggests that cannabis is the most common illegal drug that people admit to using when driving under the influence (18%), with a further one in 10 admitting to getting behind the wheel having used class A substances such as cocaine, MDMA and amphetamines.
Of those who have been convicted, more than half have been caught twice (56%), and one in five (21%) have offended three times or more. And young drivers are the worst offenders, with 18-24 year olds the most likely to get behind the wheel when using drugs (25%).
Confused.com says that "people across the UK regularly take prescription and over the counter drugs such as anti-depressants, painkillers, anti-histamines and cough mixtures, all of which can have a sedative effect, yet most of these people probably think it's totally safe for them to drive".
The study says that one in 10 people (9%) admit to never reading the advice leaflet when taking medication to see if they could suffer from possible side effects, such as drowsiness and/or tiredness.
Gemma Stanbury, head of car insurance at Confused.com, said: “Drug driving is one of the most serious crimes a driver can commit and one that needs to be addressed to make our roads safer. Road safety should be a top priority and in order to achieve this we need to ensure that the right laws, limits and learning are in place here in the UK.
“The introduction of roadside drug testing to identify certain illegal substances is a good step in the right direction, however the ability to recognise and prosecute for all drugs is needed to really clamp down on drug-driving motorists. The good news is that as our research suggests, any increase in penalties or changes to the law has the overwhelming support of British road users."
For more information contact Laura Buchan or Sarah Wenham at the Confused.com press office on 02920 434238.
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