09 Jul Government Drug-Driving Proposal – Not Based On Road Safety

The government today launched a consultation document outlining what they intend to do with regard to driving under the influence of drugs and they’ve come up with a proposal that sets an interesting if dangerous president of using road traffic laws to support wider social policies. Up to now road traffic laws have been solely based on traffic safety.

The document is here, please read it, it’s a consultation exercise so let them know what you think.

From the start, the document makes the position clear:

The Government takes a zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use and in considering what drugs and limits to specify for the new offence, it is clear that a zero tolerance approach would send the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive.

They do accept that “zero” isn’t possible and so intend to set limits as close to zero so as not to catch people accidentally exposed. For cannabis that means a blood content of 2 micrograms/litre.

Now it is important to accept from the start that there is a huge problem with people driving under the influence of drugs, often with cocktails of drugs. This is especially true of young people and especially true at night. It is reasonable to expect a driving law to target people who drive whilst intoxicated, but that is not the intention of the government. In drawing up this proposal, the government sought the views of an expert panel who recommended safe dose levels of various drugs, including cannabis. As usual the government intends to ignore this expert advice.

There are three options presented:

The government’s preferred option, Option 1:

We propose taking a zero tolerance approach (‘lowest accidental exposure limit’) to 8 illegal controlled drugs and a road safety risk based approach to 8 controlled drugs which have medical uses.

The 8 illegal drugs includes cannabis. So the offence is not related to driving impairment, simply the act of using cannabis at any time.

For young people, emotional and behavioural disorders are also associated with an increased risk of experimentation and misuse. They therefore need to consider the impact of taking drugs on their new found freedom to drive and a zero tolerance approach may act as a deterrent to these young people who may be prone to experimenting with drugs

As regards SATIVEX – which as a legal medicine is allowed a “safe” level of use for driving, the DVLA proposes to provide the following advice:

“If you are being treated with or start treatment with Sativex please be aware that Sativex is a cannabis based medicine and the Police will not be able to distinguish between an illegal drug and Sativex if any drug test is carried out. If you have any involvement with the Police in relation to driving you should therefore declare your use of prescribed Sativex and you may need to provide the Police with evidence that you have been prescribed Sativex”.

Option 2:

This is an option the government does not intend to follow, it would involve following the Expert Panel recommendation in full, specifying 15 controlled drugs and setting limits based on evidence of impairment to driving and in other cases on evidence of the increased odds of a road traffic accident and associated deaths and injuries (‘odds ratio”).

we take the view that setting a permissible limit to drive on an illegal drug such as cannabis is contrary to the Government’s approach to illegal drug use. It would therefore send out mixed messages to people who may be considering illegal drug use, i.e. “it’s ok to drive on illegal drugs as long as you don’t have too much of it”.

Of course “it’s ok to drive on illegal drugs as long as you don’t have too much of it” is the sensible concept, just as it is with alcohol. This is why the proposals are not based on road safety considerations but prohibition dogma,

Option 3 is identical to option 1 but includes all 15 “illegal” drugs instead of just 8.

No limits seem to be set for synthetic cannabis “SCRA” compounds, the so-called “legal highs”.

Please look at the document and give them feedback. Of course CLEAR will be sending a response.