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Drug Driving Penalties & UK Statistics

Aug 13, 2020

Recent drug driving UK statistics suggest that drug driving is becoming more prevalent than drink driving. Figures show that in some areas, police forces are carrying out 50% more arrests for drug driving than for drink driving. There is also concern that lockdown could influence the figures further with fears that it may have created further drug and alcohol issues amongst drivers.

Merseyside Police figures suggest that as many as 30% of police drug tests result in a failure. Whilst figures from Brake show that 18% of drug test failures involve drivers taking ‘legal’ prescribed drugs.

And whilst driving under the influence of alcohol is deemed unacceptable by society after many years of campaigning, it seems the same may not yet be true of driving under the influence of drugs.

But as an employer, particularly one that employs people to drive for work, you have a responsibility to understand the risks associated with drug driving and drug driving penalties. As the issue grows, if it is not on your radar you could find yourself failing with regards to your duty of care to your employees, business and other individuals who could be impacted by an accident caused by a drug driving offence.

What are the personal consequences of drug driving?

Being caught driving under the influence of drugs brings a wide range of penalties.

Current drug driving laws take:

  • a zero-tolerance approach to 8 drugs most associated with illegal use
  • a road safety risk-based approach to 8 drugs most associated with medical uses

Different drugs have different threshold levels which are measured in microgrammes per litre of blood. You can find a guide to these levels in our Motor Safety Guide which was created in partnership with our legal partner DAC Beachcroft.

The minimum drug driving penalties include:

  • A minimum 1-year driving ban
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • A criminal record
  • Your driving licence will show you have been convicted of drug driving. This will stay on your licence for 11 years.

Other consequences of drug driving penalties could include higher car insurance premiums, drug driving convictions being visible to employers for those who drive for work and possible difficulty travelling to countries such as the USA.

In relation to driving for work, the following are some of the factors considered aggravating factors in relation to drug driving:

  • Driving a vehicle such as a LGV, HGV or PSV
  • Carrying passengers
  • Driving for hire or reward

Courts will take into account factors such as these to determine the seriousness of the offence. And as such, the severity of sentencing will take account of these factors when present.

What about prescription drugs and medicines?

Legal (or prescription) drugs are those which have been prescribed or are over the counter medicines.

It is illegal in England and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if they impair your driving.

So, even though a medicine has been prescribed, it is important not to drive when taking these types of drugs before you have checked with your doctor or pharmacists. They will be able to advise if it is safe to drive whilst taking the medicines.

If you do drive and take prescription medicines, it is a good idea to keep your prescription in your vehicle as proof if you are stopped by the police.

And if you are found to have certain levels of prescription medicine in your body but have not been prescribed them, then you could be prosecuted.

What are the corporate consequences of drug driving?

Again, there are wide ranging consequences for your business if someone that you employ is caught drug driving. Particularly if the offence results in injury or fatality.

The most serious offences can result in responsible directors facing imprisonment, unlimited fines or prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter or corporate manslaughter.

Other consequences can include damage to your brand reputation, potential business closure, and an impact on your ability to obtain insurance.

Why it is important to have a drug driving policy in place

It is important to put a separate drug driving policy in place. One that stands alone from other policies given the severity of the outcomes drug driving can have, the increasing frequency and growing concern amongst fleets.

Whilst there isn’t a legal obligation for employers to meet around drug testing, employers do have an obligation under Health and Safety legislation to create and maintain a safe working environment.

Driving under the influence of drugs is a risk and one that employers must act to manage. Ignoring it can have consequences around an employer’s duty of care obligations if an accident does occur involving drug driving.

A drug driving policy should

  • Ensure that all staff are fully aware of and understand legislation relating to drug driving and the penalties and consequences that can be faced if they are caught driving under the influence of drugs
  • Educate about the risks around prescription drugs and the need to keep a copy of a prescription in the vehicle
  • Include training. For both managers and drivers. Training should be done on an ongoing basis as well, not simply a one off when someone joins the business
  • Enable you to keep records identifying how you have trained and implemented your policy
  • Be reviewed annually and updated where necessary e.g. if new legislation comes into force

Only 32% of employers undertake pre-employment drug testing but given the risks of drug driving and your responsibilities as an employer this could be a good step to implement. Alongside a random drug testing policy. And if you can, work to create a culture that promotes self-reporting and support if an employee does have concerns around drug use.

At Anthony Jones we work in association with DAC Beachcroft and are able to help you to understand how to draft and implement a Driving Policy for your business. We believe that an insurance broker should do more for your business than arrange your insurance, so we work with you to help improve your risk profile and put risk management measures in place. Talk to us today to see how we can help your business.

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