A new offence of driving, attempting to drive, or being in charge of a vehicle, with certain specified controlled drugs in excess of specified limits has come into force.
This offence is an addition to the existing rules on drug impaired driving and fitness to drive, and applies to two groups of drugs; commonly abused drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, and ketamine, and drugs used mainly for medical reasons, such as opioids and benzodiazepines. Amfetamines are also expected to be added to the legislation later in 2015
In summary, patients are being advised to keep suitable evidence that they are taking certain specified drugs such as an up to date copy of a repeat prescription, rather than a letter as this would provide the information around the medication that is being taken and the dosage.
This new offence does not alter in any way the clinical advice that should be given to patients in future which, as now, is based on professional judgement for each patient around what is the appropriate discussion concerning the risks of their medication. It is the ultimate responsibility of the patient to consider whether they believe their driving is, or might be, impaired on any given occasion and drivers should not drive if in doubt.
It would be advisable for clinicians to amend their record keeping and whenever they prescribe one of these preparations they should consider noting, “Advice re driving given”, or similar. We are not aware of a Read Code for this – but it would be useful.
Drug driving: guidance for healthcare professionals gives further information and guidance.
How will the new laws affect you if you’re taking prescription medicines?
You should continue to take your medicine(s) as advised by your doctor or healthcare professional, or according to the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine.
The new law will give the police powers to test and arrest drivers who are suspected of driving having taken certain controlled drugs in excess of specified levels.
Unlike the existing ‘impairment’ offence, the new law provides a medical defence if you’re taking your medicine in accordance with instructions – either from a healthcare professional or printed in the accompanying leaflet – provided, of course, you’re not impaired.
It remains the responsibility of the driver / patient to assess wheteher they consider their driving is, or they believe might be, impaired on any given occasion.
If you’re driving and you’re on prescription medicine, it may therefore be helpful for you to keep some evidence of this with you in case you’re stopped by the police.