Driving under the influence of both legal and illegal drugs is an issue that is growing on all measures in the UK – collisions and casualties have gone up by over 260 per cent over the last ten years, and convictions are now at over 12,000 a year.
The impact is devastating, far-reaching, and only getting worse, said IAM RoadSmart.
This issue was brought to the government’s attention in 2011 following a report into drink and drug-driving, and while some positive changes have been made, such as roadside testing, there is still a long way to go. With 44 per cent of offences being committed by previous offenders, mostly within one year, the current punishment and rehabilitation system clearly is not working.
The government said it would look into the option of a rehabilitation course when there is ‘sufficient demand’, but with the numbers continuing to grow year-on-year, into the thousands, it’s asking the government, when will the numbers be sufficient enough for them to address the issue?
As a road safety charity, dedicated to making the roads as safe as possible for all, it has seen success with other rehabilitation courses – with speeding courses, reoffending is as low as 5 per cent (IPSOS), and with a drink-driving course, reoffences are at 17 per cent.
IAM RoadSmart believes a standalone drug-driving awareness course would help drastically reduce the overall number of offences and casualties, and help educate drivers about the potential risks on the road.
Years of cuts to road policing, rising costs and lack of prioritisation have created an environment where offences, and deaths, can rise. Drug testing is expensive and time-intensive, and the effects are hard to police rigorously as drugs and medications are diverse – as are the reasons for taking them before driving.
Therefore, as outlined in a recent repor: ‘offenders who are suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs are being tolerated and allowed to present a continuing threat to communities.’ We cannot afford to tolerate this threat any longer.
What IAM RoadSmart want:
An urgent outcome from the government’s own consultation: We have been waiting since last summer for the government to announce the results of its own consultation entitled “Protecting the public from repeat drug-driving offenders” so that we can all work together to help drug offenders tackle their issues.
Separate rehabilitation: We want drug-driving to be reprioritised as a standalone issue, and we are calling for an in-depth investigation, looking at all variables of impact and underlying issues that lead to the offence – recognising that it is a distinct issue from drink-driving.
Develop a course: As the UK’s leading independent road safety charity, we want to work with the government and all interested parties to support the development of a rehabilitation option for drug-driving, with a particular focus on illegal substances, that is effective in reducing reoffences.
Support the prescribing process: We want to work with partners, in government and the health sector, to raise awareness and advise on how prescribed medications can have an impact on a driver’s judgement while behind the wheel.
The government needs to refocus on the issue and find an effective and sustainable solution that can address the complexities of these offences, to reduce the dangers to stop the casualties on our roads increasing any further.