One in 16 drivers (6%) have admitted to driving at least once a month after having taken drugs, according to a new survey by Brake and Direct Line.
The figures, released to mark the first anniversary of the introduction of new drug-drive laws, also found one in 12 (8%) of those surveyed thought they had probably or definitely been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had taken drugs during the last year.
DfT figures published on Sunday show that in the 12 months since the law change, there has been a six-fold increase in the number of convictions for drug-driving nationally, but some individual police forces have seen their arrest rates go up by 800%.
The new roadside swab test, introduced on 2 March 2015, is designed to make it easier to catch and convict drug-driving offenders by removing the need to prove the driver was “impaired”.
The changes also made it an offence in England and Wales to drive after using even small amounts of 17 legal and illegal drugs which, according to Brake, effectively saw the introduction of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drug-driving.
The Brake and Direct Line survey, in which 1,000 drivers participated, also revealed that one in six people (16%) said they would get in a car with a drug driver.
The road safety charity has labelled its findings as “shocking”, stating that ‘huge numbers’ of drivers and passengers are still taking dangerous risks when it comes to drugs.
Alice Bailey, campaigns advisor for Brake, said: “The hundreds of extra convictions over the last 12 months prove just how overdue this law change was.
“Different drugs have different effects, some slowing reaction times, others making drivers over confident and more likely to take risks, but they all have the potential to make drivers a danger to themselves and all other road users.
“The government must make sure the police have the necessary resources to carry out these tests and keep catching dangerous drug drivers who risk killing themselves or someone else.”
Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: “The significant increase in drug-driving convictions since the change in the law last year should serve as a serious deterrent to those considering getting behind the wheel after taking drugs.
“This is testament to how, when road safety issues are given due prominence, positive change can be achieved.”