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Driving And Drugs

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 26 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Drug-drivers Drug-driving Cannabis And

For many years drunk-drivers have been considered to be one of the biggest scourges of the road. However, shock findings conducted by a number of sources are leading safety chiefs to believe that there may be an equally dangerous pursuit emerging: drug-driving.

The Facts

In 1989, random samples from a number of road traffic accident fatalities showed that only 3% of the drivers involved in accidents were known to have been driving with drugs in their systems. The figure taken in 2003 was 18% - 6 times the figure taken in 1989.

The RAC foundation said in 2003, that they believed that drug driving may become more prevalent than drink driving. Over six months of that year, Durham police took blood samples from all of the 23 people killed in road accidents and the results were shocking: - 50% of them had traces of either cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy or a prescription drug.

Testing for Drug-Drivers

One of the main problems that officers have is that there is no definitive drug-tester such as the breathalyser used to prove drink driving. Police officers are given roadside recognition tests where the driver is required to undergo a number of simple co-ordination tests to see if they have been taken drugs. Of course, these are not conclusive.

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation, said:

"Police reports from throughout the UK have suggested that drug driving is increasingly prevalent among young people, perhaps more than drink driving, yet no conclusive statistics exist as to the extent of the problem.

"At the moment, police officers have no effective roadside technology to detect drugs. They rely instead on recognition tests, observation and experience. If the problem gets worse then they may struggle to cope. Hence it is vital that any change in the law is combined with a very high profile, multi-media campaign. Many motorists are surprisingly ignorant of the dangers posed by drug driving."

RAC and Max Power Survey

In early 2006, a survey carried out by the RAC foundation and Max Power Magazine discovered that of 474 readers questioned, 1 in 5 (20%) admitted to taking to the road every day while high on illegal drugs.

The survey results were as follows:

  • 20% of those surveyed say they "drug drive" every single day
  • 44% regularly drug drive with passengers in their car
  • 59% of those surveyed have driven after smoking marijuana
  • 37% have driven after taking cocaine
  • 67% believe drink driving is worse than drug driving
  • 46% think they are unlikely to get caught drug driving
The RAC and Max Power carried out the survey to make younger drivers aware of the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs, and to help put an end to it. The penalties for those caught driving under the influence of drugs go from a heavy fine and/or a one year driving ban to six months in prison.

Passengers in Danger

Mr. King went on to say: ´Only dopes drug drive and only mugs allow themselves to be driven by dopes.´ In spite of these wise words, it seems that 90% percent of young drivers who admit to driving while on drugs have carried passengers. To emphasise just what drugs do to a driver, Max Power included a feature in their May 2006 issue called 'The Need for Weed' in which they put 5 young drivers to the test - driving on a specially set up road course, after each of them took a different 'recreational' drug.

This is what happened:

Alcohol: The driver who sampled the alcohol said ´the more I drank the less I cared´. He claimed he would have been ´lethal on the road´.

Cocaine: The tester said he felt ´invincible, like no-one could touch me´, and wouldn´t have cared if he was being reckless on the roads.

Marijuana: Drove very slowly - feeling a common effect the drug - paranoia - made him more cautious as he worried that he was going to hit something.

Speed: Said his driving was ´faster and more erratic´. He could not stop fidgeting and just wanted to go faster.

Ecstasy: The tester said he would be ´in a hedge in no time´ saying he was in no state to drive while under the influence of the drug.

John Sootheran, Editor of Max Power said of the tests : Max Power does not glorify or condone the use of illegal drugs however it does feel it is important and in the public interest to tell its young readers what the likely effects will be should they take drugs and then drive."

He went on to say "Driving under the influence of drugs makes drivers' confidence rocket while their skill and accuracy plummet, making any drug driver a serious hazard to themselves and other road users."

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