Road Safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is raising concerns about drug driving across the UK. In particular, GEM is worried by recent reports of ‘sky high’ recordings over the legal limit, and by inconsistencies in sentencing of offenders.
For example, Christopher Backhouse, who killed his friend in a crash while returning from a music festival, was more than 130 times over the drug drive limit. He was jailed for two years.
Audi driver Gintars Garkajs, who was caught with potentially the biggest level to date of more than 120 times over the drug driving limit for MDMA (commonly known as ecstacy), was jailed for 18 weeks and given a five-year driving ban at Cambridge Magistrates Court.
However, 42-year-old Zoe Davies, who took crack cocaine, walked free from court, despite being 26 times over the limit when police stopped her.
GEM chief executive David Williams said: “The new roadside drug testing kits introduced in 2015 make it simple for police officers to detect the presence of drugs in a driver’s system. Furthermore, drug driving limits are set at very low levels, and there are also limits for some prescription medicines.
“Let’s be clear: driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and entirely inappropriate. GEM calls for greater consistency in sentencing, particularly, because it is vital to send a strong safety message to those who consider it acceptable to drive after taking drugs.”
Figures published earlier this year showed the scale of the problem of drug driving, with as many as six motorists in ten who were subjected to roadside tests proving positive. Results provided by Cheshire Police showed an 800 per cent increase in the number of arrests made, following the introduction of roadside detection kits.
It is just over 12 months since new regulations were introduced giving specific limits to 16 drugs in the course of driving. Convictions for drug driving now stay on the licence for 11 years. Motorists found guilty face a minimum one year disqualification, up to £5,000 fine and a criminal record.
GEM has published a short video on drugs, driving and the law, which sets out the legal situation as well as providing an explanation of the dangers.