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3 minutes
21 Jan 2022

Drug driving in the UK

In 2015, new regulations came into force for drug driving.

Drug driving in the UK

What is the drug driving law?

The drug driving law states that it is illegal to drive if either:

  • An individual is unfit to do so because they are on legal or illegal drugs
  • An individual has certain levels of illegal drugs in their blood (even if they do not affect their driving)

Legal drugs are defined as prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you are unsure whether to drive and you are taking them, the advice is to talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional.

What happens if suspected of drug driving?

If suspected of being on drugs, the police can stop your vehicle and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’. This includes a series of impairment tests. For example, asking you to walk in a straight line.

In addition, the police can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine. The roadside drug test involves a sweat or saliva drug screen. If an individual fails the drug screen, they could be arrested and asked to provide a blood or urine sample to confirm the results of the drug screen.

If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station.

Furthermore, even if a driver passes the roadside drug test, they may be taken to a police station to undertake a blood drug test for other drugs.

Finally, you could be charged with a crime if the tests show that you’ve taken drugs.

What are the illegal drugs for drug driving?

There is a zero-tolerance approach to the following drugs if found over the cut-off levels (accidental exposure) in your system:

  • benzoylecgonine
  • cocaine
  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis)
  • ketamine
  • lysergic acid diethylamide
  • methylamphetamine
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
  • 6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin)

What are the legal medicinal (prescription) drugs for drug driving?

The following medicinal drugs were identified from a road safety risk-based approach to drugs most associated with medical uses:

  • benamphetamine, for example dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, for example codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • oxazepam
  • temazepamzoylecgonine

You can drive after taking these drugs if you have been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional. Or they are not causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits.

It’s illegal in England, Scotland, and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving. In addition, it is an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.

Consequences for drug driving

If you’re convicted of drug driving, you’ll get:

  • Minimum 1 year driving ban
  • Unlimited fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Criminal record
  • Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.
  • The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

A conviction for drug driving also means:

  • Car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • If you drive for a living, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

If you are having difficulties with drug use, there is lots of help available. We would advise seeking help from your employer or any of the organisations from the NHS website.