Police call for curb on drivers' drug use

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The Independent Online
Tough new laws to punish motorists who take any form of illegal drug and drive were called for by police chiefs yesterday.

Chief constables want to introduce a "zero limit" for drug users who drive. Anyone caught could face a ban, fine or imprisonment. The police want the new offence to cover all illegal drugs, from cannabis to heroin.

The initiative, by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), follows estimates that more than 100.000 motorists a year may be driving while under the influence of illegal drugs. There is growing concern about the danger such motorists present to themselves and other road users.

Paul Manning, secretary of the Acpo traffic committee, and Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, speaking at a conference on drug- driving in Lincoln, said: "Many of the attitudes and beliefs prevalent in the late Sixties, prior to the advent of the drink-drive legislation, are now being voiced in respect of drug-driving, the most worrying being that 'drug taking does not affect my ability to drive or make judgements'.

"The dangers of drug-driving will need to be brought home to drivers in a powerful way if the problem is to be addressed by self discipline."

The Acpo drugs committee has recommended a new offence that would remove the need to prove impairment - which is currently needed for a prosecution - of a driver under the influence of drugs.

Mr Manning said that a new law to make it an offence to drive with any detectable amount of illegal drug should be introduced. His committee and the Department of Transport are also searching for a roadside drugs kit that could be used to test motorists in a similar way as for alcohol. The DoT is already carrying out a three-study to discover the number of drug-drivers on the road.

Mr Manning said that there could be more than 109,000 drug-driving cases a year, based on the findings of a Forensic Science Service study in 1995.

At the same conference the Royal Automobile Club reported that drivers taking sleeping tablets were four times more likely to have a road accident and that taking tranquillisers can double the risks.

The figures are based on Canadian studies and are the latest figures to support the RAC's campaign to warn of the dangers of drug-driving.