Although the Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning insists that Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, he also made clear that the problem of driving while impaired by drugs is as an important issue as drink-driving. However, while enforcing law against drunken drivers is relatively easy, to call a driver under the influence of drugs into account was till now much more difficult to deal with effectively.
For this reason the Department of Transport is establishing an expert panel to consider the technical aspects of introducing a new offence of driving while under the influence of drugs including cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, and opiates. Whilst the precise terms of reference of the panel are still under development, it is already clear that it will look at aspects such as how an offence of this type could be defined from the scientific point of view. Additionally, as the Department for Transport informs, the panel will consider whether it is possible to identify levels for the impairing effects of specific drugs for average members of the adult population, similarly to the current blood alcohol level. In cases where such levels can be identified the expert panel may then look at how these would vary across the population, including for habitual users of these substances. The panel will also examine whether impairment levels could be exceeded through legally obtained drugs as well as the effects of the interaction drugs and alcohol and of different combinations of drugs. As the aim of the panel is to provide a scientific, evidence-based technical and not a policy or legal advice, it will comprise mainly academic and scientific experts in the field of alcohol and drug misuse as well as workers from the Home Office and Department of Health.