The questions raised by the government’s new drug driving measures

Putting it bluntly: The questions raised by the government’s new drug driving measures

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The government is working towards drug limits for drivers, similar in concept to alcohol limits.

It’s about time.

Drink drive limits were introduced in 1967, a time when everything was changing at a terrific pace.

Drugs, long hair, free love, the contraceptive pill, rock and roll… You name it — for better or for worse all the old, traditional standards were being rapidly discarded.

However, drugs were all over the place in the Sixties and here we are, nearly 50 years later, finally recognising that drugged up drivers are not a good idea and finally doing something about it.

If parliament were on a life support machine, with those sorts of reactions, one might conclude that viable life was extinct and that the machine could be safely switched off.

The new limits are set out below, although there is still discussion around how limits should apply for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Illicit drugs

1. Benzoylecgonine, 50 µg/L

2. Cocaine, 10 µg/L

3. Delta–9–Tetrahydrocannabinol (Cannabis and Cannabinol), 2 µg/L

4. Ketamine, 20 µg/L

5. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 1 µg/L

6. Methylamphetamine – 10 µg/L

7. Methylenedioxymethaphetamine (MDMA – Ecstasy), 10 µg/L

8. 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – Heroin and Morphine), 5 µg/L

Generally prescription drugs

1. Clonazepam, 50 µg/L

2. Diazepam, 550 µg/L

3. Flunitrazepam, 300 µg/L

4. Lorazepam, 100 µg/L

5. Methadone, 500 µg/L

6. Morphine, 80 µg/L

7. Oxazepam, 300 µg/L

8. Temazepam, 1000 µg/L

While these limits are very welcome, these limits raise some questions.

First of all, for those with real ADHD, as opposed to those using it as a deceitful cover, just how deficient does attention have to be before the driver becomes a serious menace? If someone knows the answer, please let me know.

Secondly, we are faced with the vexing question of legal highs.  By definition, these substances can be legally sold, purchased and consumed.  However, by their very name, they induce some sort of chemical euphoria.  Presumably it is fairly safe to claim that under the influence of such substances, any driver will not be in full control of their minds and thus severely distracted and thus a major threat.

Why has the government not been more specific in what constitutes a danger to road users?

Alcohol is legal, but not at levels that impair drivers.  Surely the way forward is to take a broader approach to this issue.

Let’s stick with the above limits but have a general catchall provision that any other drug that is not either prescribed or a legal over the counter product and consumed otherwise than in accordance with the instructions is also illegal for drivers.

Personally, if people are stupid enough to get involved with DIY pharmacology, they deserve everything they get and I have absolutely no sympathy.

However, when their home spun efforts encroach on my space, namely off their face on something interesting bought on line while driving, I get very upset indeed.  Will this law catch such people?  Doubtful.

Then we must look at sentencing.

Do people who dabble in such practices really care about their responsibilities to other road users?  Again, even more doubtful.

Will these people face the same consequences as those drunk at the wheel?

Well, look at it this way.  Possession of cannabis for own use is, for the first three times caught, subject to a street caution.  Clearly, everyone is taking illicit drug use seriously.  Are drivers putting others at risk while driving under the influence of illegal substances going to get hit twice, once for the drug driving and again for illegal drugs?  Again, doubtful.

Finally, what about those suffering withdrawal symptoms?  Methadone is on the list with an upper limit stipulated.  What if the individual does not get the fix in time?  Their body will crave the substance and the mind has precious little say in the matter, save for concentrating on getting a fix as soon as possible.  Where is legislation covering withdrawal symptoms which are every bit as big a distraction as the drug itself?

It’s about time the government clamped down on drug driving.

All in all though, the latest measures are a case of too little too late.

As usual.

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Tags: Drink-driving, Driver safety, Drug driving, New Proposal

About the Author

Kevan Chippindall-Higgin ADI Dip DE Apart from being an ADI (with a DIA Diploma in Driver Education), Kevan is also a scuba diver instructor, first aid instructor trainer, Marine VHF and Diesel instructor and Heavy Goods Transport Manager. He has driven 400 miles inside the Arctic in winter and across Greece in the summer—and most bits in between

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