Drug Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs - whether prescribed medication or illegal substances - is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. It is also against the law.

It goes without saying that illegal drugs are against the law and driving whilst under the influences of these drugs is a criminal offence and seriously endangers yourself and others.

However you should also be aware that some prescribed drugs and those you can buy over the counter such as cold and flu medicine can also have an affect on people’s ability to drive.

People who take these drugs and drive can suffer from conditions similar to that of people under the influence of alcohol.

Driving while under the influence of drugs can lead to slower reaction times, a lack of concentration, nausea, dizziness, tiredness and paranoia. Some people also become more aggressive and therefore can be a hazard to other road users due to changed behaviour.

Driving under the influence of drugs carries the same penalties as drink driving - a ban and a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in jail. However, if a person under the influence of drugs causes a fatal accident, they could face a two-year ban and a maximum of 14 years in jail.

It is not only illicit drugs which impair a person’s ability to drive. Many over-the-counter medicines and prescribed drugs cause impairment. People should always heed the warnings contained on the containers of such drugs.

Did you know?

  • Eighteen per cent of drivers involved in road death have illicit drugs in their bodies.
  • Twenty two per cent of passengers involved in road deaths have illicit drugs in their bodies.
  • It is not only illicit drugs which impair a person’s ability to drive. Many over-the-counter medicines and prescribed drugs cause impairment. People should always heed the warnings contained on the containers of such drugs.

 

Impairment tests

The ‘field impairment’ tests used by UK police officers are derived from the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) used by the majority of police forces in the U.S.

Police in the UK use five field impairment tests and they are:

1. Examination of pupils. A subject’s pupils are examined and if they are outside the normal range of between 3.0 and 6.5mm this is recorded as abnormal.

2. Romberg test. The Romberg test is a test of the subject’s internal clock. The subject is asked to tilt their head back slightly, close their eyes and estimate the passage of thirty seconds. Results of between 25 and 35 seconds are normal.

3. Walk and turn test. The subject is asked to stand with their right foot in front of the left foot, touching heel to toe. They are asked to take nine steps along the line, turn and walk nine steps back. The subject must count out loud and look at their feet while doing the test. If the subject fails to count out loud, look at their feet, loses balance etc., these failures are recorded.

4. One leg stand test. The subject is asked to stand on one leg with the foot raised 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) parallel to the ground. The subject is told to look at their foot and count out loud.

5. Finger to nose test. The subject is asked to extend the index fingers of both hands and hold them palms facing forward. With the head tilted slightly backwards and eyes closed the subject is asked to touch the tip of the nose with the tip of their finger with the hand indicated by the officer.