Drug driving rates have more than doubled, with legal and illegal drug users risking conviction

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 8:01 am

The number of drug-driving offences has more than doubled since new laws were introduced five years ago, according to police data.

Almost 10,000 drivers were charged with driving under the influence of drugs in 2019/20 - a 125 per cent increase on 2015/16, when the specific offence was first introduced.

A Freedom of Information request to police forces in England and Wales revealed that recorded offences have been rising since the law changed, reaching a record 9,270 in 2019/20.

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Sixteen of the 27 forces which provided data also gave evidence on roadside testing, which showed the number of positive roadside tests has tripled. Not all positive tests necessarily result in the driver being charged, for instance where a roadside test shows as positive, but a police station test comes back as negative.

Prescription and illegal drugs are covered by the law (Photo: Shutterstock)

In March 2015 the law changed to make it an offence to drive with more than a set level of certain drugs in your system. The rules applied to eight illegal drugs including cocaine, heroin, cannabis and ecstasy, as well as prescription drugs such as diazepam, morphine and methadone.

Anyone convicted of drug-driving will get a minimum 12-month driving ban and can face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

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Of the forces that responded to the FoI request, Essex police charged the most people for drug driving in the last year, with 1,828 charges between March 2019 and February 2020. Merseyside Police had the second highest number of charges at 1,605.

While most forces have seen an increase in the number of charges between 2015/16 and 2019/20, others have seen notable decreases. For instance, the Metropolitan Police saw a peak number of charges in 2016/17 of 1,152 but this has since decreased to just 339 charges in 2019/20.

Jessica Potts, head of marketing for BookMyGarage, which obtained the data, said: “Most people are aware of the ongoing problems surrounding drink driving but far fewer people know that drug driving is just as much of a problem.

“Although the data suggests the new police powers are enabling forces to arrest and charge more people, it’s alarming that the overall number of drug driving charges continue to rise despite its potential to cause devastating outcomes.