March 3rd, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Most drivers are vaguely aware that you should not drive with certain medical conditions or you may need a note from your GP or you may be restricted for a temporary period after surgery. But did you realise that some of the over the counter medicines that you could be taking right now for a cold or virus, could contain sufficient levels of certain chemicals to show up in a blood test and you might be outside the law?
The legislation states that it is an offence to drive in England, Scotland or Wales with certain levels of drugs in your bloodstream and many of these can be found in perfectly legal medicines and pain-relieving medication. You should discuss your prescription with your doctor if you have been prescribed any of these:-
- Morphine or any of the opiate family of drugs
Some standard ingredients like codeine can cause drowsiness in drivers and in more extreme cases can lead to dizziness and lightheadedness. Codeine is one of the ingredients in Nurofen Plus tablets and in some headache relieving medications like Migraleve.
The police are entitled to stop and drug test anyone driving in such a manner as to call into question their ability and/or safety. Drug testing is undertaken with DrugWipes also known as ‘drugalysers’ which use a simple mouth swab to look for drugs like cannabis and cocaine. But the police are allowed to assess all motorists if they feel their driving ability has been impaired by something seemingly far more innocuous such as prescribed medications from the GP or even basic painkillers.
The police are on the alert as recent figures released by the DVLA showed that drug driving is now more commonplace than drink driving and convictions amongst motorists have increased 400% since 2017. The figures don’t break down the analysis of which drugs were found to be in motorist’s systems but a percentage of these convictions will not be for the usual culprits like cannabis and cocaine.
What new legislation is looming?
From 2022, breathalysers must be able to be fitted into all new cars. This is actually a technology which prevents motorists over the limit from even starting their engines. This edict has come from the European Union but it is unlikely that the UK government will not endorse it even after Brexit. Older vehicles are not exempt as cars made before 2022 will have to be modified in order to comply by 2024.
Although prosecutions for drug driving have increased beyond those for drink driving, drink driving-related fatalities are on the rise. The Department for Transport released statistics which show that drink-related deaths have increased by 9% from 2016 to 2017 with a corresponding rise in non-fatal collisions. This initiative for in-car breathalysers is driven by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) who, along with other initiatives such as AI-based speed limiters, hope to cut road collisions by 30% over the next decade.
The so-called alcolock has been deliberately vague in actual detail and industry pundits are speculating as to whether there will be ways to override or circumvent it much as you can disable Intelligent Speed Assistance software or ISA also known as speed limiters by pressing down hard on the accelerator pedal. Some predict that it will only be used for banned drivers to monitor behaviour once they return behind the wheel.
On a totally different note, motorists will be delighted to hear that the government is proposing new legislation to regulate parking companies and trim around the edges on some of their more unacceptable practices. In particular, this includes a centralised process to appeal parking tickets, one of the biggest bugbears amongst the driving public. The Citizens Advice Bureau have reported enquiries from several thousand drivers during the previous twelve months all looking for information and advice on how to appeal parking tickets. The plethora of different companies in the marketplace used by all sorts of commercial organisations and local authorities to enforce parking restrictions do not seem to have a uniform approach. Signage varies, parking policies are inconsistent and appealing a parking ticket can be unclear with often intimidating responses from the enforcement companies. The legislation is already on the statute books and the New Code of Practice is currently in process
For new entrants to the driving market, a system of graduated driving licences is already being trialled in Northern Ireland. This is proactive steps on behalf of the UK Government to try and reduce young driver injuries and deaths most commonly during the first two years of driving life.
The policymakers are looking at a number of different provisions which may be applicable to new drivers for a period of time following their test pass. These could include:-
- Making ‘P’ plates compulsory for two years post test success – in Northern Ireland, new drivers have to display an ‘R’ plate which means, ‘Restricted’ for the first twelve months after passing their test and they are also not permitted to drive faster than 45mph during this time either
- Night curfews – most accidents involving new drivers occur during the dark
- Limiting passenger numbers within the vehicle
- Introducing a low blood alcohol limit for new drivers
- Restricting the engine capacity of their cars
This new initiative began in Theresa May’s government during 2018 following which a pilot scheme was set up for Northern Ireland during 2019/2020. If this is deemed to be successful, it is likely the concept will be rolled out across the UK. Similar schemes already operate in Australia, New Zealand and Eire and, in certain states in America, new drivers can only drive at night if they are accompanied by an experienced driver. Most driving organisations welcome the new proposals although there is debate over a nighttime curfew as during the winter this would effectively exclude young drivers from the road from as early as 4 pm which may not be workable. The RAC have been saying for some time that young drivers do not feel the current driving test preparest them sufficiently for what lies ahead. The really good news is that tighter controls may see a reduction in the sky-high insurance premiums for young motorists.