Did You Know That There Has Been an Increase in Drug Driving Charges?

Written by John

On June 11, 2021
driving for work and attitude

The total number of charges in England and Wales increased from 4,122 in 2015/16 to 9,270 in 2019/20. The number of drug driving charges in England and Wales has risen to record levels in the last year.

Several police forces across England and Wales showed a total number of charges increased by 125% from 4,122 in 2015/16 to 9,270 in 2019/20.

Drug driving became a specific offence in 2015, meaning police could charge someone for it if they had at least one of 16 specified drugs in their blood above a certain limit.

Half of the 16 drugs listed are ‘medicinal’ and so drivers are just as likely to be prosecuted for having a legal drug in their system as they are an illegal drug whilst being behind the wheel. But to fall into that category you would have to take more than the prescribed dose. If you are prescribed any medication, you must inform your doctor/medical professional that you need to drive for work and request that alternative medication is provided.

You should make yourself aware that the law does not just apply to illegal drugs. Some medicinal drugs, such as drugs to treat insomnia or even some that are used as pain killers will be on the list to be aware of. So always check with your doctor’s Pharmacy if they will affect your ability to drive. 

Not all positive tests necessarily result in the driver being charged, for instance where a roadside test shows as positive, but a police station test comes back as negative.

Between March 2019 and February 2020 Essex police had the highest number of people charged for drug driving, which was 1,828. Merseyside Police had the second highest with 1,605.

Other police forces have also seen an increase in the amount of people drug driving. 

 Whilst most people are aware of drink driving being a problem, not many are aware of how much a problem drug driving is becoming. 

Drug driving is also becoming far more prevalent within the workplace. We have had such a terrible year with Covid. Lockdown has seen people at home, not needing to go to work; so recreational weekend drug users are now turning to drugs during the week. All it takes is a small issue to arise, and drugs will take someone’s mind off that issue. 

What Issues Could Arise for Someone During Lockdown That Result in Drug Abuse?

drug driving

Potential issues could include (not an exhaustive list):

  • Being out of work / not able to pay bills = Stress
  • Being out of work and not sure if there will still be a job to go to after lockdowns = Stress
  • Debts getting bigger = Stress
  • Deferred payment meaning debts are had for longer = Stress
  • A family member or loved one being ill with Covid or someone close losing their life = Upset
  • Having more disposable cash as mortgage breaks and no travel cost = more money to spend
  • Boredom 

 This will ultimately see an increase in drinking and drug use.

 Legal Medicinal Drugs 

  • Drug Blood Threshold Limit (mg/L)  
  • Clonazepam 50
  • Diazepam 550
  • Flunitrazepam 300
  • Lorazepam 100
  • Methadone 500
  • Morphine 80
  • Oxazepam 300
  • Temazepam 1000
  • Illegal Drugs 
  • Drug Blood Threshold Limit (mg/L)
  • Benzoylecgonine 50
  • Cocaine 10
  • Cannabis 2
  • Ketamine 20
  • LSD 1
  • Methylamphetamine 10
  • MDMA 10
  • Heroin 5

With the Increase in the Use of Drink and Drugs on the Road, We Must Tackle This, but How Can This Help You in Your Business?

To start it is about having strong and robust policies and procedures, setting the tone from the start, and carrying out these standards.  

The workforce needs to be educated on drink and drug abuse issues to ensure that every employee whatever their role has is conducting themselves in line with your company policies. Especially if their role will include driving a company vehicle, or working in a safety-critical role,

The implementation of a drug and alcohol testing programme helps to manage company policies and works well to assist with deterring employees who may be tempted to abuse alcohol or take drugs, and therefore impact their abilities and safety at work.

As a minimum all companies should actively use drug and alcohol testing under a ‘With Cause’ situation – this is when there has been a justifiable reason to test an individual, for example, post-accident or post-incident testing to rule out any possible impairment; suspicion from a change in an individual’s behaviour; whistle-blowing; paraphernalia being found; the smell of alcohol/drugs; etc. 

Added to this the best active deterrent companies can use is to randomly test a percentage of the workforce annually – meaning that all employees are subject to random “spot checks” throughout the year. To ensure employee engagement with this, communication is key. If they feel they are being forced to do so they will rebel, however, if you involve all employees (and are not role-specific) they will more than likely be compliant when it comes to wanting to introduce such methods. 

Remember that some drug users function without any obvious symptoms of drug use – however, this does not mean that they are not impaired. Poor judgement, lack of awareness, concentration levels dropping, are some of the “unseen” side effects of drug use. All of which will have a detrimental effect on an employee’s ability to perform their job role safely and correctly. Like alcohol, many drugs reduce a driver’s ability to have full control of your vehicle. Drugs have different and profound effects on a person’s mood and behaviour depending on the type of drug involved.

 Safe driving requires:

  • alertness
  • clear vision
  • physical coordination
  • quick reactions
  • the ability to make the right decisions under pressure


  • driving and attitude

Here Are Some Illegal Drugs and the Effect They Have on Driving:

Cannabis (the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK)- can slow down a person’s reaction time, distort the perception of speed and distance and reduce concentration and coordination when driving.

Cocaine (the 2nd most commonly used drug in the UK) -tends to make people more alert, increasing their focus and attention. This might sound like it could help drive in some way, but studies have shown that drivers are up to 10 times more likely to cause a serious or fatal collision after taking Cocaine. It causes overconfidence and can cause erratic behaviour, making drivers more risk-averse. Once the initial “high” has subsided after taking Cocaine, users can feel like they have flu, feel sleepy and have a severe reduction in concentration. 

Heroin – users usually will be drowsy for several hours; mental function is clouded; heart function slows, and breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes enough to be life-threatening. Spatial awareness and cognitive impairment can impact the driver’s ability to perform the complex task of driving. 

Methamphetamine (ICE) & Ecstasy – can lead to overconfidence, rash decision making and risk-taking. Insomnia caused by ICE and cocaine use can affect a driver’s reflex and concentration.

Hallucinogens – affect hearing and sight as well as the perception of time, distance, and movement, causing an individual to potentially sense things that do not exist.

Multiple drug use – using a combination of drugs can lead to extreme and varied effects such as dramatically slowed reaction times, visual distortion, inability to judge speeds and distances, and risk-taking

So now you know a bit more about drug driving and the changes, contact Parry’s Fleet Services for more information!

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