The government has confirmed its intention to introduce a new offence of being in charge of a motor vehicle with a controlled drug in the body.
The new offence coincides with the launch of an independent expert panel report which analyses research on drug driving and makes recommendations on the drugs to potentially be covered by the new offence.
Later in the year the Government will make specific proposals regarding the drugs to be covered by the regulations and these proposals will be subject to a public consultation. The final proposals will then need to be approved by Parliament before they can become law.
In a written statement to Parliament, Stephen Hammond (pictured) road safety minister, said: “Drug driving is a menace on our roads with an estimated 200 drug driving-related deaths a year in Great Britain.
“The government has a zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use and it is important that we send the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive.
“In order to tackle this threat to safety on our roads, the Government is introducing a new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified controlled drug in the body. The new offence is included in the Crime and Courts Bill, currently before Parliament. It will enable more effective law enforcement and help to keep our roads safe.
“Last spring, the department commissioned a panel of medical and scientific experts to provide technical advice on drugs to potentially be covered by the new offence. The panel has concluded its work and today I have published their report.
“The government will carefully consider the panel’s recommendations. In doing so, we are clear that the design of the new offence must send the strongest possible message that you cannot take any amount of illegal drugs and drive.
“At the same time the government must consider the position of those who legitimately and safely use medicines which may contain controlled drugs. We must ensure that the new offence would not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in line with medical advice.
The IAM warmly welcomed both the report and the new offence.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research, said: "The IAM welcomes this report as the biggest step forward in the drug driving debate since drugs first started to feature in crashes.
"Setting limits based on a drug’s effect on driving opens up a whole new approach to enforcement and sends a very strong message that it is unacceptable to have drugs in your system behind the wheel.
“The IAM is also very encouraged by the panel’s finding that drugs mixed with alcohol are an extra danger and the setting of lower limits when alcohol is present is very good approach."