Drugged driving incidents have hit a record high over the past 12 months, with majority of cases caused by legal prescription medicines. For 2015, a total of 1,686 drivers were caught driving under the influence of drugs, compared with only 738 in 2014 – a rise of around 140%.
The data was obtained by insurance comparison site Confused.com using a freedom of information (FOI) request.
The rise in cases coincides with a new law that was enforced in March last year, when new road-side drug screening devices were introduced. The new rules also expanded the list of substances being monitored, both legal and illegal.
Many drivers that were caught were positive of class A to C drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis. However, majority of British drivers are four times more likely to test positive for legal drugs such as diazepam and codeine, than their illegal counterparts.
Over a third of British drivers suffer from hay fever, making them susceptible to unintentionally committing a drug driving offence. According to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, some hay fever medicines have side-effects that impair driving ability, such as drowsiness, lethargy, and blurred vision. Unfortunately, one in seven drivers that suffer from hay fever admit to not reading their medication’s advice leaflet, and one in 15 admitted to driving while being impaired by their medication. Four per cent have been involved in an accident, as a result.
Matt Lloyd, motoring expert at Confused.com, said: “It’s worrying to see that so many motorists admit to driving while under the influence of drugs – both prescription and illegal.”
He added: “Our advice is simple: before taking any medication people should always read the safety leaflet before driving.
“Or if unsure they should ask the pharmacist or err on the side of caution and don’t drive, as road safety for themselves and others should be a top priority for any driver.”