New legislation to make drug driving a specific offence must be used to identify impairment, and not simply to detect drivers who have used drugs at some point, according to the IAM and ABD.
Currently police have to show that a driver has been impaired by drugs in order to prosecute, but under the new law it will automatically be an offence to drive with certain controlled drugs in your body, in excess of specified limits. The Government believes the law change will make it easier to prosecute.
Police will use a hand-held drug detection device, which will take a saliva sample, as well as a breathalyser. The exact drugs covered by the offence and the specified limits for each will be decided following advice from the expert panel and public consultation.
Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “While we support the introduction of the drugalyser test and this offence, it needs to be backed up by some measure of impairment. Without this, the test could simply catch people who have used drugs at some point, but are not necessarily still impaired by them.
“Impairment as the key factor is also essential in tackling drivers who may have used over the counter or prescription drugs, which while legal, can have an equal impact on driving ability as illegal ones.”
The Association of British Drivers (ABD) urged similar caution. Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, said: “Like it or not, drug use is widespread amongst the younger population.
“Unlike alcohol, some drugs show up in ‘drugalyser’ tests many days after any effect has worn off.
“Whilst the irresponsible must be punished, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that what could be significant numbers of people who have acted responsibly, by not driving while under the influence of drugs, are not unfairly punished by traffic laws. Any action against such individuals should use legislation on possession or use.”