New laws aimed at cracking down on drug-drivers have come into effect across England and Wales.
The new legislation sets specific limits for a number of illegal and prescription drugs. Drivers found to be over these limits face a charge of driving while under the influence of drugs, resulting in a maximum £5,000 fine, a six-month prison sentence and a minimum one-year driving ban.
Police will be enforcing the law through the use of ‘drugalysers’, which can quickly detect the present of both cannabis and cocaine. Drivers stopped by the police could also be required to attend further testing at a police station, should they be suspected of being under the influence.
Previously, to secure a conviction police had to prove that a motorist’s driving was impaired, but the new legislation makes it a specific offence to have traces of illegal drugs in the bloodstream, regardless of whether driving ability has been affected.
As well as illegal drugs such as LSD and heroin, the law encompasses a number of prescription medicines, including diazepam and methadone. Drivers sticking to prescribed doses should not fall foul of the new limits, though those worried are advised to contact their local pharmacist.
David Taylor, a psychopharmacological adviser to the Department of Transport, told the BBC that this was in effect a “zero tolerance” approach to drug-driving and that those who take them could find themselves over the limit for up to 36 hours afterwards.
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