As new tougher rules on drug driving come into force in March, Gocompare.com car insurance warns drivers that some prescribed or over the counter medicines may also impair their ability to drive safely. The comparison website is urging drivers to seek advice from their GP or pharmacist before getting behind the wheel and to take medicinal drugs in accordance with professional advice or the information supplied with the medicine.
The new legislation, which comes into force in England and Wales on 2 March 2015, sets limits at very low levels for illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine. But, the new rules also include eight prescription drugs (clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, methadone and morphine).
However, drivers are unlikely to be over the specified limit for these medicinal drugs if they have taken normal prescribed doses and their driving is not impaired. Motorists unsure about the effects of their medication on their ability to drive should seek advice from their GP or pharmacist
Roadside testing will be used to establish whether any of the listed drugs are present. This will be followed by a forensic analysis of a blood sample taken at a police station to establish which drug is involved and the quantity in the blood. The offence will carry a mandatory disqualification and a maximum of six months imprisonment.
Matt Oliver, spokesman at Gocompare.com car insurance, commented: “Drug driving is an increasing problem and is treated very seriously by the police, the courts and insurers. The penalties for drug driving are the same as for drink driving, ranging from a hefty fine to disqualification or imprisonment. Drug drivers not only present a serious risk to themselves but to other road users.
“Drugs, whether they are illegal substances or prescribed medications, can affect both your mind and body. Side effects can include slower reaction times, drowsiness, erratic or aggressive behaviour - all of which may impair your ability to drive safely. And, in judging whether someone is fit to drive, no distinction is made between legal or illegal drugs.”
Matt added: “Motorists convicted of drug driving can expect to see steep increases in their insurance premiums or find difficulty in obtaining cover. So, if you are prescribed any new medication or buying over the counter medicines, ask your GP or pharmacist if it will affect your ability to drive. And, always read and follow the instructions provided with your medication. If they advise against ‘operating heavy machinery’, take it as a warning not to get behind the wheel of a car.”
Notes to editors
Under The Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to drive while under the influence of drugs and drink. Drug driving carries the same penalties as drink driving - a minimum one-year driving ban and a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in jail. If a driver under the influence of drugs causes a fatal accident they face a two year ban and a maximum of 10 years in jail.