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New drug-driving laws now in force

Recent new legislation makes it an offence to have certain levels of traces of any of certain specified drugs in your system, regardless of any potential effects they may have on your ability to drive.

The drugs specified in the Regulations consist of 8 legal medications, including diazepam, clonazepam and morphine, and 8 illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and LSD.

The change in the law

It has been an offence to drive a motor vehicle whilst unfit to do so as a result of drug consumption since 1988.  However, under the new law you may be guilty of the offence of drug driving even if your ability to drive is not impaired by the use of drugs.

Road side tests

Police will use road side testing kits which involve a swab of saliva being taken from the inside of a driver’s cheek to identify whether there are any traces of cannabis or cocaine found in the sample. Officers will also be able to test for these and other drugs at the police station, where the type and quantity of the drug in the blood can be measured.

Potential defence

There is a defence for someone over the limit but who has been taking drugs in accordance with medical or dental direction and whose driving has not been impaired as a result. 


This new law signals a zero tolerance approach by the Government and highlights their determination to target illegal drug use. The penalties for drug driving are higher than that for drink driving.  If convicted of an offence under the new legislation, drivers will automatically be banned for driving for at least 1 year; you may receive a prison sentence of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

What you need to do

This new law is particularly important for employers with staff who drive on company business with or without company cars.   It is advisable for employers to check that driving policies and substance misuse policies reflect the current position.  

How can you find out more?

If you would like any further information on the issues raised above, please contact Jaime Gay on 01242 248252 or email jaime.gay@bpe.co.uk.

These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

Picture of Jaime Gay

Jaime Gay

Chartered Legal Executive


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