A hard habit to break
It’s probably 20 years ago that a colleague passed the comment that someone was leaving the company and she wondered if he would take his pot plants with him. Rather naively, I thought it funny that this generally laid-back chap inhabited the top floor of our offices with a bunch of plants, and only later did it dawn on me what he was actually growing at work! Luckily he didn’t drive to work and he certainly didn’t drive for work.
These days it’s not uncommon to hear people openly discussing drugs as a part of their social habits. That openness surprises me, given it’s my understanding that it is still illegal to possess or consume most of the popular drugs.
But on that same basis, what doesn’t surprise me is the number of people clearly unfit to drive through drug use, sharing the road with me on an everyday basis. It’s a fact that drug drivers suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and sometimes aggressive behaviour, an inability to concentrate properly, and even symptoms as alarming as hallucinations and paranoia. I don’t want to be sharing the road with any of them, because they are more likely to cause – or have – an accident. I don’t want them on my fleet because they will have a negative effect on our insurance.
Well aware of the scale of the problem, the Government is planning a crackdown on motorists driving under the influence of drugs. This includes limits being set for some prescription medicines as well, notably those prescribed for anxiety and insomnia – so there’s a fair chance that more fleet drivers will be at risk then, given today’s work pressures – although it’s the intention that those remaining within prescribed limits won’t become victims of the new legislation. Several illegal substances will have zero limits, including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and heroin.
Up until now there has been no drug drive limit. An allegation can be brought if the police have reason to believe that you were driving a motor vehicle in a public place after consuming drugs and are unfit under the influence. And they use various means to check. These include odd little tests like making the driver stand on one leg (not sure I can do that anyway), and the finger to nose test we’ve probably all seen on TV cop programmes. Rather than these rudimentary tests, there are plans to introduce a “drugalyser” device at the roadside but apparently these are still on trial.
But the catching bit still relies on police being out on the road to catch offenders, and since we are told the number of traffic officers continues to be cut, maybe we won’t see as many convictions as we would hope for.
As companies we all have drink and drugs policies in place, yet it seems HR often shies away from taking disciplinary action, probably because testing has been difficult, and they must have absolute proof of a problem. If you have a suspicion about an employee’s habits, perhaps this is another area where telematics could prove worthwhile, for surely erratic driving would be picked up by that?
I’m intrigued to see how the new law pans out, and whether hefty fines and the threat of prison will prove enough of a deterrent that companies have less difficult situations to manage in house. But old habits are difficult to break.