The Government has issued new guidance to healthcare professionals as part of the process of introducing new measures to crack down on drug driving.
The new offence of driving with certain controlled drugs, including some prescription drugs, above specified limits is due to come into force on 2 March 2015.
The new guidance advises general practitioners, doctors, nurses and health advisers on changes to the drug driving offence and what it means for patients. It is designed to help them explain the new rules to patients, and to reassure those who take prescription drugs that they will be able to drive safely without being prosecuted.
While police can already prosecute drivers if they are driving while impaired by drugs, the new rules will make it an offence to be over the specified limits for each drug while driving.
The new law also provides a medical defence for patients who are taking their medicine in accordance with instructions, provided they are not impaired.
The new regulations will come in to force at the same time as new equipment to test drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside is expected to become available to the police.
Robert Goodwill, roads minister said: “The new drug driving law will make it easier for the police to tackle those who drive after taking illegal drugs or abuse medicinal drugs, whether they are on prescription or available over the counter.
“This new offence will be introduced alongside major changes to drink-drive laws. Taken together, these will give police the tools they need to prosecute those who risk the lives of others through dangerous behaviour.”
The changes to the drink drive law will remove the right for drivers who fail a roadside breath test to demand a blood or urine sample at the police station. This test can take place several hours later, which means some drivers who were over the limit when tested at the roadside could have time to sober up.
The Government says that removing the option for this test will save police forces an estimated £13m over 10 years and allow breath tests to be used as evidence.