Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Panel to consider drug-driving law

An expert panel is to look into the possibility of introducing a new offence of drug-driving

The Government is setting up an expert panel to consider the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body.

The panel will look at how such an offence could be defined, as well as considering whether it is possible to set levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs. The panel could start work this spring.

It is likely that the panel will consider whether it is possible to identify, for average members of the adult population, the levels of drugs that have an impairing effect broadly equivalent to the current blood-alcohol level. Panel members will consider this effect for a number of drugs including cocaine, MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), cannabis, and opiates.

In cases where such levels can be identified the panel may then look at how these would vary across the population, including for habitual users of these substances.

The panel will examine whether impairment levels could be exceeded through prescribed or otherwise legally obtained drugs, as well as the effects of the interaction of drugs and alcohol and of different combinations of drugs.

The panel will comprise academic and scientific experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse. The Department for Transport, which is establishing the panel, is also working with the Home Office and Department of Health. The group's remit will be to provide scientific, evidence-based technical advice and not to provide policy or legal advice.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we know how important it is to tackle the menace of drug-driving. That is why we are putting together a panel of experts to give us advice."

AA president Edmund King said: "We welcome the setting up of the panel which is the first step towards a 'legal limit-style' drug-driving offence.

"This new offence is long overdue to improve the difficult process of securing a prosecution under the current law. This is especially important when more than 200 people are likely to be killed in drug-driving incidents each year."

"An AA/Populus Poll in February 2009 showed that 100% of the respondents (11,147 in total) supported a legal limit and 72% an absolute ban even if the drugs didn't impair driving. We look forward to seeing the panel's recommendations."

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