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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs – new report published

7th March, London

The UK Department for Transport has today published an independent report setting out specific drug-drive ‘thresholds’ above which the drivers will face prosecution in future.

The report, ‘Driving Under the Influence of Drugs’, was drawn up by an expert panel led by Dr Kim Wolff, reader in Addiction Science at King’s College London. The panel was asked by the Department for Transport to make recommendations about which drugs listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) should be covered under the new drug driving offence, and to consider what thresholds for these drugs should be set.

To assist the Expert Panel, Clockwork Research was commissioned by Dr Wolff to produce a series of reports covering issues relating to drug driving. Clockwork reviewed international scientific and epidemiological evidence relating to drug use and drug driving, as well as existing and proposed drug driving procedures and legislation from around the world.

The report sets out limits for a range of illicit and medicinal substances, ‘at a level above which driving is considered dangerous and the risk of having a road traffic accident is significant.’ The report also sets out lower limits for drivers who test positive for alcohol (above 20mg/100ml) and also for one or more of the drugs. The lower limit is based on evidence that shows that alcohol in combination with drugs ‘significantly increases the risk of a traffic accident compared to when driving under the influence of low concentrations of a single substance on its own’.

The report, which has been welcomed by motoring and road safety groups including the AA, the Institute of Advanced Drivers and BRAKE, will go out to consultation this summer with legislation expected to be in place by 2014. Launching the report, Dr Wolff said: “There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence about the extent of the road safety problem associated with drug driving, with some indication that drug driving may be a factor in 200 deaths per year in the general driving population. The panel has focused on the risk of serious or fatal injury when driving under the influence of specific drugs compared to driving having not taken these substances, and investigated the particular drug concentrations in blood.”

Dr Wolff said the panel scrutinised scientific evidence about how each drug affects the general driving population, alongside information on thousands of road traffic accident cases and witnessed impairment linked to drug driving. “Based on this data, recommended thresholds have been set at a level above which driving is considered dangerous and the risk of having a road traffic accident is significant.”

The full report can be downloaded here