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Drugs & Driving: The Law

It’s illegal to drive if either:

  • you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs 
  • you have certain levels of certain drugs in your blood (even if they haven’t affected your driving)

Legal drugs are prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.

If the police stop you and think you’re on drugs they can do a ‘field impairment assessment’. This is a series of tests, like asking you to walk in a straight line.

If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station. You could be charged with a crime if the test shows you’ve taken drugs.

Prescription Medicines from March 2015

From March 2015 it will be illegal in England and Wales to drive with certain illegal drugs in the blood, even if you’re not unfit to drive.

It will also be illegal to drive with certain levels of certain legal drugs if you’re unfit to drive.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the following drugs:

  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

You can drive after taking these drugs if:

  • you have been prescribed them and advised how to take them by a healthcare professional
  • they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive

You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you haven’t been prescribed them.

The law doesn’t cover Northern Ireland and Scotland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.

Penalties for Drug Driving

If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get:

  • a minimum 1 year driving ban
  • a fine of up to £5,000
  • up to a year in prison
  • a criminal record

Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Other problems you could face

A conviction for drug driving also means:

  • your car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

Other sources of advice

More information on the drug driving legislation can be found online at https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

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