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Drug driving charges rise 125%

The number of motorists charged with drug driving has surged since new laws were introduced.

Half of the 16 drugs listed under the drug driving legislation are ‘medicinal’

Drug driving became a specific offence in 2015 and a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to police forces by the BookMyGarage.com service has now found that the number of drug driving charges rose from 4,122 in 2015/16 to 9,270 in 2019/20, among the 27 police forces across England and Wales that responded.

A total of 16 police forces also provided data on the number of drivers who had tested positive for drug driving at the roadside, with the cumulative number of positive tests in these areas more than tripling from 2,619 in 2015/16 to 9,074 in 2019/20. However, not all these may have resulted in the driver being charged, for instance where a roadside test shows as positive, but a police station test comes back as negative.

The data suggests that the new police powers are having the desired effect of enabling forces to arrest and charge more people, but also could indicate a general rise in the practice.

BookMyGarage.com head of marketing Jessica Potts said the rise was alarming and warned that many drivers may not know they can be charged for taking prescription drugs while behind the wheel; under the legislation, police can charge someone for drug driving if they had one of 16 specified drugs in their blood above a certain limitand these include ‘medicinal as well as recreational drugs.

“Motorists should be especially aware that the law doesn’t just apply to illegal drugs. Medicinal drugs, such as those prescribed to treat insomnia or even some pain killers, feature on the list so it’s crucial drivers always check their medication to see if it impairs their ability to drive,” Potts advised.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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