New drug-driving laws in force from today

New drug-driving legislation has been officially introduced today, making it an offence to drive under the influence of drugs including heroin, cannabis and cocaine.

Introduced to crack down on the number of motorists who drive while under the influence of drugs, the new law also makes driving while over the prescribed limited of medicinal drugs illegal too.

Maximum sentence of six months in prison

The new law carries a maximum prison sentence of six months, plus a £5,000 fine and an automatic 12-month driving ban for any driver caught by police and found to be over the legal limit.

Legal limits have been officially set for eight of the most common illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, with the limits so low that it’s essentially a zero-tolerance policy.

Administered in a similar way to existing drink-drive laws, police will use new roadside ‘drugalisers’ like the Drugwipe device revealed in January to test motorists pulled over for dodgy driving.

Jule Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety group Brake, said: “We believe the government is doing the right thing by taking a zero tolerance approach; we hope this will make it clear that driving on any amount of drugs won’t be tolerated.”

The move has also been received well by members of the public, including Surrey resident Natasha Groves, whose 14-year old daughter Lillian was unfortunately the victim of a speeding drug-driver in 2010.

She said: “The legislation is now up to date and fit for purpose. Having to prove impairment will no longer be a matter of judgment, but a testable fact.

“When we learnt, in 2011, that this was not already the case, it was incomprehensible. We have fought tirelessly since losing Lillian, and our determination has brought about this significant change. It has been a tough and emotional journey for us all.”

Natasha finished by saying: “We have achieved this law change in Lillian’s name and her legacy will live on and our roads will be that bit safer.”

200 drug-related road deaths every year

Experts say that drug-driving causes as many as 200 deaths on British roads each year, and surveys have indicated that as many as 370,000 young male drivers have driven under the influence of drugs.

Drugs, like alcohol, can affect driving in numerous ways, from slowing reaction times to causing aggressive behaviour, nausea, hallucinations and panic attacks or a loss of control.

In force from today onwards, the government has also updated and amended the Highway Code in order to include the new drug-drive rules.