As new stricter drug-driving laws move a step closer following the publication of Department for Transport's proposed regulations, Gocompare.com outlines the insurance implications.
Drug-driving describes anyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of any substance, legal or illegal, that is likely to impair their driving ability. The new law will introduce an offence of driving, or being in charge of, a motor vehicle with concentrations of specified controlled drugs in excess of specified levels and, provisions which will make it easier for police to secure a conviction of a suspected drug-driver.
Under the proposals, a zero tolerance approach would be taken to eight illegal drugs; cannabis, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, benzoylecgonine, methamphetamine, LSD and heroin, while limits are proposed for some prescribed drugs such as diazepam.
Motorists found guilty of the offence will face a minimum one year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, up to six months in prison and a criminal record. Their driving licence will also show that they have been convicted for drug-driving, and this will last for 11 years.
The consultation runs from 9 July to 17 September 2013.
Scott Kelly, head of motor at Gocompare.com explained, "Drug-driving has become an increasing problem in recent years and as this new legislation demonstrates, is likely to be treated very seriously by the police, the courts and insurers in future. And, the penalties for those convicted of drug-driving are far reaching, reflecting the very serious risk they pose not only to themselves but to other road users."
"Drugs, whether they are prescribed medications such as sleeping pills or illegal substances, can affect both your mind and body. Side effects can include reduced reaction times, drowsiness, erratic or aggressive behaviour - all of which may impair your capacity to drive safely."
Scott Kelly continued, "In addition to the legal sanctions, motorists convicted of drug-driving can expect to see steep increases in their insurance premiums or find difficulty in obtaining future cover. Also, convicted drug-drivers will have a criminal record which could exclude them from certain types of employment, being able to hire a car, or getting a visa to travel to certain countries like the USA.
"While the new law may end up differentiating between recreational and medicinal use, you should always ask your GP or pharmacist if you are prescribed any new medication or if you are buying over the counter medicines that could affect your ability to drive. Always read and follow the instructions provided with any medication and if they advise against driving or ‘operating heavy machinery' or the list of side effects includes drowsiness, think carefully before taking to the road."