Government panel will tackle drug driving

The Department for Transport (DfT) will ask a panel of experts as early as Spring to consider introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your system.

The announcement was made after road safety charity Brake and Direct Line revealed that one in nine young drivers (11%) has driven whilst under the influence of drugs in the past year.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we know how important it is to tackle the menace of drug driving.

"That is why we are putting together a panel of experts to give us advice on the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body. The panel will look at how such an offence could be defined as well as considering whether it is possible to set levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs."

According to Brake, researchers in France found taking cannabis almost doubles the risk of being involved in a fatal car crash while mixing cannabis with alcohol increased crash risk 16-fold.

Comprising of academic and scientific experts as well as members of the Home Office and Department of Health, the panel will specifically look at how drugs such as MDMA, cocaine, cannabis and opiates impair the body in a similar system to the current blood alcohol level used for drink driving.

Legal obtained drugs will also be reviewed to gauge what limits should be put in place for drivers.

Brake is urging the government to change the current loophole whereby driving whilst on drugs is only an offence if the police can prove you are impaired.

Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said:"The risks of driving on drugs are huge, and the consequences devastating. We need all drivers to pledge to never mix drugs and driving, and we need the government to follow through with its commitment to tackle this problem.

"The longer this takes, the more lives will be violently and tragically lost."