Drug driving

It is against the law to drive whilst unfit through drugs. This offence is determined by how badly affected your driving is and the law does not distinguish between illegal drugs and drugs that are prescribed or bought over the counter.

How drugs affect your driving

Different drugs affect driving differently and people can also react to drugs differently. The type of drug, the dosage, the length of time in the user's body, as well as the user themselves, all impact on how much a driver is affected.

Drivers’ attentiveness, perception of time and speed, as well as coordination and judgement can all be affected when using drugs. Drug drivers can experience a range of effects, from:

  • an inability to notice hazards
  • lower reaction times
  • erratic, aggressive and risk-taking behaviours
  • an inability to concentrate properly on driving tasks

They may also suffer:

  • nausea
  • hallucinations
  • confusion
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia
  • tremors
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

If alcohol has also been consumed, this will further increase the risk of being in a collision.

Prescription and over the counter drugs

Prescription or over the counter medicines should always be taken in line with the prescribing doctor’s instructions and/or the dispensing chemist’s advice. Read the information provided on the container or with your medication, particularly look for warning messages about driving or operating machinery and follow the recommended dosages. Never take someone else’s medication. If you’re taking medication or drugs and are not sure, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional before driving.

If the police stop you and suspect you’ve taken drugs they will ask you to take a ‘Field Impairment Test’. This is a series of tests, such as asking you to walk in a straight line and checking your eyes. If they think you’re unfit to drive through taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will be required to have a blood test at a police station. If the test shows you’ve taken drugs you could be charged with a motoring offence.

Penalties for drug driving

The penalty that you get depends on the circumstances and established facts of your case which will all be taken into account by the District Judge who hears your case, in reaching his/her decision.

If you’re convicted of drug driving you may get:

  • a minimum one year driving ban
  • a fine of up to £5,000
  • a criminal record

Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted of drug driving. This will stay on your licence for 11 years.

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