Tougher UK laws on drug-driving have seen a considerable increase in the number of motorists convicted for getting behind the wheel while under the influence of medication, both legal and illegal. Startling figures uncovered by show a 140% rise in the number of cases in 2015, with a leap from 738 cases in 2014 to 1,686 last year.
The new drug laws, introduced in March 2015, cover both banned substances such as class A, B and C drugs as well as many common medications. A particular concern is the number of motorists who are driving while taking certain prescription hay fever medications, as these can cause drowsiness and lead to a much higher risk of incident or accident behind the wheel; a sizeable majority of cases involved prescription drugs. The crackdown on drug-driving has coincided with police and law enforcement bodies now able to carry outside more accurate roadside tests.
Drivers also admitted a much greater likelihood of hitting the road having taken prescription medicines such as codeine compared to far fewer who would drive having taken recreational drugs; with almost one in three UK drivers suffering from hay fever and pollen-related conditions, there is considerable scope to believe that the figures are only a small drop in the ocean compared to the numbers who may be driving under the influence of drugs. With insurance policy costs already on the rise, any conviction resulting from drug-impaired driving will only push those prices higher.
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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has issued a number of statements, focusing specifically on hay fever medication and urging all motorists to carefully read the leaflets provided with the drugs, specifically any sections concerning side-effects. Drowsiness and blurred vision are often linked to such medications, with both clearly a huge cause for alarm while driving. Those in the motor trade are particularly at risk, with the constant requirement to get behind the wheel, whether it’s test driving on trade plates or moving vehicles during or after servicing.
The consistently-stated advice is not to drive while under the influence of drugs, and, if a journey is absolutely necessary, to avoid taking medication beforehand. Worryingly, around 1 in 15 drivers surveyed suggested that they were well aware of the effects of their medication, with a small percentage attributing accidents directly to the influence of the drugs. It’s not recommended to sit behind the wheel for any time whatsoever, even if you’re test driving new and used cars, as any journey can be hazardous.