Drug Driving

Drug driving is one of the criminal offences that a person can be prosecuted for if found operating a motor whilst unfit through drugs. Drug driving may endanger people because a person who drives while on drugs is unable to concentrate properly while driving and can have nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia and dizziness. Cannabis distorts a driver’s perception of time and distance making a person see vehicles closer than they really are and Cocaine makes the driver feel over confident leading to aggressive behaviour and risky driving at high speeds. In Great Britain 22% of those killed in road traffic accidents in the UK have illegal drugs in their bloodstream. In Australia 24% of drivers killed tested positive to THC and other drugs in 2007. In USA 33% of the 12,055 of drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes with known test results tested positive for at least one drug. Drink driving is also a major problem and statistics have shown in Great Britain 5% of road casualties that occurred in 2009 where due to someone driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit. In Poland 11.6% of the total drivers that were involved in road accidents were under the influence of alcohol, 11.6% of total number of victims of road accidents died due to drink driving and 11.5% of the total number of injured people during road accidents were injured due to drink driving.

In many countries once the police suspect a person of drug driving they perform a ‘field impairment assessment’ which involves a number of tests to prove that a person has taken drugs. The first test is an eye test where the police examines the subject’s eyes for proof of drugs. The police are able to tell that a person took drugs through their eyes because cannabis causes the blood vessels in the eyes to become larger. Furthermore Ectasy and cocaine enlarge the size of the pupils. The police also perform a ‘Romberg test’ which assesses the subject’s balance and judgement of time. The subject is asked to tilt their head back, close their eyes and estimate passage of thirty seconds. The walk and run test is another test that the police impose on people where a person is asked to walk heel to toe along a straight line and count their steps out loud while looking at their feet.  The last test is the finger to nose test where a person must touch the tip of his/her nose with the tip of his/her finger with the hand indicated by the officer. If the police are convinced that the person was on drugs while driving they arrest the person and take him/her to the police station where the person gets examined by a doctor and a blood test is taken for further proof.

While the drug driving offence in Great Britain is based on proof of impairment, France has a zero tolerance on drug driving and it is illegal in the country to just be on drugs while driving even if there were no impairments. France and Australia have the same drug tests as UK and USA but have an additional drug test known as ‘the saliva drug test’where the police use saliva to detect drugs. THC can be detectable in the saliva less than 12 hours after being taken in most cases. Marijuana and hashish can be detected 12-24 hours, Cocaine up to 1 day, opiates and Benzodiazepines 2-3 days and metamphetamine within 5-13 days. 

The penalties that a person may get for drug driving in the UK include a driving ban with a minimum of 12 months and a criminal record. The person may further be fined up to £5000. Moreover there will be a specific record on the person's driving licence for 11 years that details a conviction for drug driving. If a driver caused death due to drug driving he/she may receive a prison sentence of up to 14 years. If they drive for work their employer will see the conviction when they have to produce their licence. Other penalties include an increase in the car insurance and the person who has any drug related conviction may encounter difficulties getting permission to enter countries such as USA. In France a person may be sentenced to prison for up to two years for drug driving and may be given a fine of 4500 euros. In Australia a person with an offence of drug driving may have his/her licence disqualified for at least three months and may be required to have a drug dependency assessment.

The UK government has made efforts in creating awareness of drug driving to the public by spending £2.3 million to launch anti-drug campaigns. One of the campaigns made by the government includes an advertisement on television which tells people to be aware of drug driving because the police can easily identify people who drive while on drugs. The government of Australia has done almost the same thing by putting up an advert on television which shows young people the impairments they could face when driving under the influence of drugs and the impacts it could have on themselves and others. Further efforts that have been made worldwide to deal with the problem of drug driving include the existence of an international road safety organization which raises awareness and promotes road traffic safety at an international level. It also encourages efficient action to improve road traffic accident prevention. The issue of drug driving was put as one of the main discussion points in the agenda of the U.N Commission on Narcotic drugs 2011 and during the round table discussions it was discussed that countries should make their citizens more aware of the dangers concerning this problem by making police enforce legislation and ask social workers to discuss with marginalized people the inappropriate behaviour. Furthermore it was revealed that the European Union countries are seeking to tackle the issue of drug driving through the DRUID research project which will evaluate prevention, legal enforcement and training measures on the matter.