Driving under the influence of drugs

car tunnelDriving while impaired by drugs whether illegal, prescribed or over the counter, emerged as an important road safety issue in the late 1990’s. But by 2013 there had been little change to legislation other than the introduction in the United Kingdom of mandatory field impairment tests. Changes to primary legislation began in 2013 and has been followed by further legislation.

A major introduction to the legislation came into force on 2nd March 2015, but prior to March prosecutions for driving under the influence of drugs required evidence to show unfitness to drive (Section 4, Road Traffic Act 1988, as amended). The new legislation now makes it an offence to drive with a drug in the body, above a specified limit (Section 5A, Road Traffic Act 1988). Specified limits have now been set. (See here)

Techniques to detect the drug driver with the use of impairment, (or sobriety) tests were introduced to the UK in 2000, along with a method to identify a driver who is or may be under the influence of drugs. There are few studies in the UK to clearly identify how bad the drug-driving situation is. But those studies were sufficient to urge the police service into finding an effective interdiction for this growing problem.

Field Impairment Testing (FIT) and Drug Influence Recognition (DIR) was introduced to the UK police service in 2000 and is a systematic and standardized assessment method used to determine whether impairment may be present in a driver. It may be used at the roadside, at the police station by a police officer, or a forensic physician.

Drug Recognition identifies the signs and symptoms associated with the effects of drugs, and classifies these drugs into seven main categories. (see page drugs and their effects) FIT and drug recognition can provide a strong indication of whether a driver is impaired.

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