More than 400 people a month are being arrested for drug driving in England and Wales, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). The figure is based on statistics obtained from every police force area by IAM under a Freedom of Information request.
More than 900 arrests were made by forces between March – when a new offence of driving with more than the specified limit of a control drug in the body was introduced (DDN, March, page 4) – and May. The figures reveal that there is ‘little consistency in testing and arrests’, however, with London’s Metropolitan Police making 214 arrests – around three per day – while other forces, including Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Gwent, made none.
Since the law was passed, police have the power to stop motorists and conduct a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they suspect them of driving under the influence of drugs. This could then lead to arrest and a blood or urine test at a police station, with penalties including a £5,000 fine or up to six months in prison for those convicted. A 2010 government-commissioned report by Sir Peter North concluded that drug driving could be responsible for up to 200 deaths a year, and that six per cent of drivers aged between 17 and 39 had driven under the influence of drugs.
‘We have reached a point where drink-driving has become socially unacceptable, particularly amongst younger people,’ said IAM chief executive Sarah Sillars. ‘We now need a sustained campaign to back up the police enforcement effort and ensure drug-driving is seen in exactly the same way. The effects of driving under the influence of drugs can be devastating.’