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England and Wales have put in place some of the strictest drug driving laws on the planet in an effort to get drug-impaired drivers off the roads.
From 2 March 2015 the introduction of roadside ‘drugalyser’ tests has made it easier and faster for drug drivers to be prosecuted by police.
Police can now use ‘drugalysers’ to screen for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside and for other drugs, including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin, at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check.
Roadside ‘drugalysers’ can detect cannabis or cocaine in the saliva, but laboratory testing is needed for other banned substances.
The new law sets permissible limits at very low levels bordering on ‘zero tolerance’. The illicit drug limits have been set at the lowest possible level that rules out accidental exposure. For example, passive inhalation of marijuana smoke at a party.
The law covers for eight illegal drugs including cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy but more alarmingly covers eight prescription drugs, typically used for insomnia or anxiety although the limits generally exceed normal prescribed doses.
The prescription drugs for which legal levels have been set include morphine, methadone and diazepam. People using these drugs within recommended amounts will not be penalised.
Penalties will be stiff with up to six months in prison, up to £5,000 in fines and a license disqualification for at least 12 months. The penalties are designed to be in line with drink driving penalties.
Setting aside the illicit drugs the limits set for prescription drugs are as follows:
- Clonazepam, 50 µg/L
- Diazepam, 550 µg/L
- Flunitrazepam, 300 µg/L
- Lorazepam, 100 µg/L
- Methadone, 500 µg/L
- Morphine, 80 µg/L
- Oxazepam, 300 µg/L
- Temazepam, 1000 µg/L
The new rules may be worrying to those people prescribed medication to cope with serious injuries, chronic pain and PSTD.
It is very difficult to provide an estimate of how much of a drug such as Valium or Temazepam will put you over the limit and for how long, because body physiology varies so greatly. Davey Law recommend anyone taking any of these prescription drugs consult with their doctor about what might constitute safe usage.
There are clearly social consequences to setting limits on prescription drugs. Some people may be forced to give up driving, or stop taking their medication to stay on the road.
If you are feeling any kind of effect from one of these drugs then stay off the roads.