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The dangers of drug driving

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As the parent of a teenage boy about to begin to learn to drive I thought I would arm myself with a few statistics to try and impress upon him the dangers that being a driver can entail, after all male drivers aged under the age of 21 are 10 times more likely to have a car accident than male drivers aged 35 or over.

What I found regarding young drivers driving whilst under the influence of illicit drugs alarmed me greatly.  In the first half of 2002, a local police force found that more than half of all drivers involved in fatal collisions had drugs in their blood stream.

In fact, six times as many drivers who die on our roads have taken illegal substances, compared to ten years ago.

Many teen drivers questioned thought that if they drove under the influence of drugs a vehicle search and a potential charge of possession was all they had to be worried about, however, the consequences are much more serious – a 6 month prison sentence, a £5k fine, even being refused a visa to enter the USA or a ban on working with children. The penalty for killing someone whilst driving under the influence of drugs could result in a 14 year prison sentence.

Just like drink driving, driving whilst impaired when under the influence of drugs is illegal and the penalties can be severe.

Police officers now have powers to undertake roadside drug tests on drivers.  These tests are called Field Impairment Assessments and involve a number of tests which are simple to complete if the person is not affected by any substance – but difficult if they are.  Police conduct the tests in a standardised way and they can even accurately assess what drug a driver is on! They can also give the officer sufficient information to arrest the driver immediately for committing an offence contrary to section 3a or 4 Road Traffic Act 1988.

Taking drugs will impair driving skills. Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving in numerous ways.

Drug drivers can suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behaviour, an inability to concentrate properly, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors , dizziness and fatigue. In such a condition, it is a bad idea to be behind the wheel of a car, for the driver and their passengers.

During the phase whilst the effects of drugs are wearing off, the taker may feel fatigued, which will affect their concentration whilst driving.

In June 2010, the Department for Transport published Sir Peter North’s report on drink and drug driving law in the United Kingdom. That report makes a number of recommendations relating to drug driving laws and their enforcement. In particular, the report recommends that the government take steps to develop an approved preliminary testing device for certain types of drugs and carry out research to determine what levels of such drugs in a driver’s blood or urine should be deemed to be impairing. The report also recommends that more police constables be trained to carry out FIT tests.

Although these are only recommendations, the report raises some significant concerns about the extent of drug driving in the UK and its consequences.

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident involving a drug driver, Stephensons can help you claim the compensation you deserve. Our specialist road traffic accident claims solicitors have successfully pursued payouts for many people with injuries ranging from minor to severe. To discuss your case with one of our friendly specialist lawyers, call us on 01616 966 229.

We’ll also be taking part in BRAKE’s Road Safety Week from November  21st to 27th to highlight the dangers on the roads.

By road traffic accident claims handler, Sam Ord