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We must all join together to fight drug-driving

PUBLISHED: 14:32 20 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:32 20 June 2018

Norfolk police have been issued with drug testing kits to combat the increasing number of drivers with banned substances in their system. It's time society made the offence as beyond the pale as drink-driving, says Chief Constanble Simon Bailey.

Norfolk police have been issued with drug testing kits to combat the increasing number of drivers with banned substances in their system. It's time society made the offence as beyond the pale as drink-driving, says Chief Constanble Simon Bailey.

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

In his latest column, Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey highlights the menace of drug-driving.

Due to numerous educational initiatives over the years and robust enforcement activity such as our current summer drink- and drug-driving campaign, the vast majority of people see drink-driving as socially unacceptable and an offence which carries a significant sentence for convicted offenders.

Sadly, however, in recent years drug-driving has become a significant issue and we need to tackle it head on as there continues to be a small proportion of our community who do not apply the same risks when driving while under the influence of drugs.

Since March 2015 it has been an offence under the Crime and Courts Act to drive with certain controlled drugs (listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971) in your system. Yet in the last year, for example, more than 300 people have ignored this and have been charged by Norfolk Constabulary with driving with excess drugs.

Kits introduced back in March 2015 allow my officers to carry out roadside tests on drivers suspected of being under the influence of cannabis or cocaine and they work by testing a saliva swab. We do not have to have physical evidence of the drug itself.

Even if a driver feels they are not unfit to drive, if one of my roads policing officers finds you have a level of cocaine or cannabis in your blood which is above the legal limit they will charge you.

A drug-drive conviction will have a serious effect on your life, including a criminal record, a minimum 12-month driving ban and a heavy fine. You could also face losing your job - and it will definitely have the opposite effect of what you were hoping for on your social life.

What many people don’t realise is how long drugs such as these stay in your system, with both cannabis or cocaine likely to be there for at least 24 hours. Not only may you be committing an offence by being in possession of the drug, but even if you took them the night before, just as with alcohol, it could still affect you the morning after.

It is a known fact that drug-driving impairs your judgement. Cannabis makes your reactions slower and cocaine causes over-confidence and erratic behaviour. Both of these responses to taking those drugs increases the chance of being involved in a collision.

We need to create a culture, just as has happened with drink-driving, where people feel more confident about holding their friends or colleagues to account for their actions. We all have a part to play in keeping our roads safe and there should be a zero-tolerance approach to drug-driving, not just from the police but from society as a whole.

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