THE Government is setting up an expert panel to consider the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving with an illegal drug in your body.
The panel will look at how such an offence could be defined as well as considering whether it is possible to set levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs.
The move has been welcomed by Huddersfield road safety group Brake, which revealed details of the number of drivers taking to the wheel with drugs in their system.
It is likely that the panel will consider whether it is possible to identify, for average members of the adult population, the levels of drugs that have an impairing effect broadly equivalent to the current blood-alcohol level.
Panel members will consider this effect for a number of drugs, including cocaine, MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), cannabis, and opiates.
In cases where such levels can be identified the panel may then look at how these would vary across the population, including for habitual users of these substances.
The Department for Transport, which is establishing the panel, is also working with the Home Office and Department of Health.
The group’s remit will be to provide scientific, evidence-based technical advice and not to provide policy or legal advice.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we know how important it is to tackle the menace of drug-driving. That is why we are putting together a panel of experts to give us advice.”
The announcement of the panel came as Brake and insurance company Direct Line published a survey which showed 11% of young motorists aged 17 to 24 had driven on illegal drugs in the past year.
The poll also revealed that 3% of these young drivers said they got behind the wheel after taking drugs once a month or more.
Both organisations highlighted the fact that, at present, it is only an offence to drive while impaired by drugs, meaning police must prove impairment to prosecute.