of drug-driving - where drivers are prepared to travel under the
influence of either illicit drugs or prescribed medications - is
Many drugs will affect a driver's ability to drive safely. This
is not just illegal drugs, but some prescribed drugs can
So far, only small-scale surveys have been carried out, but
these suggest that:
- 18% of driver or rider fatalities had some form of illegal drug
in their system
- 6% of driver or rider fatalities had some form of prescribed
drug in their system.
This means that 24% of fatal crashes could involve drug-driving,
compared to around 16% for drink driving.
Testing for drug drivers
Many drug impaired drivers believe they are immune from
detection by the Police. They think there isn't a roadside test,
like the breathalyser, for drink driving, but there is.
Kent Police now use field impairment tests if they think a
driver's ability is affected by a drug. The evidence they gain from
the field impairment tests could be enough for a driver to be
A range of specifically devised tests check co-ordination,
balance and understanding. Most tests ask the driver to perform
simple tasks, like standing on one leg and walking a straight
line. There are also tests that check the dilation of pupils
in the eye to help identify any potential impairment.
The tests allow a police officer to accurately see what type of
drug, if any, has been taken. The results could mean the driver is
arrested and taken to a police station. A blood test would then be
made to confirm what type of drug is in the driver's system.
Any illegal drug will affect an individual's state of mind. It
will reduce their ability to concentrate, generally make their
reactions slower and make them take risks they would not normally
take, just like alcohol.
Drivers also need to be aware that legally prescribed
medications can affect driving ability, even cough medicines and
cold and flu remedies.
Some medication causes drowsiness. You may feel fine before you
start driving, but once in a stuffy, warm car, you could very
easily feel tired and begin to lose your concentration.
Always read the label, and discuss the possible effects on
driving with your doctor or GP.
What do we do to tackle this problem?
We discuss these issues on the young driver courses that we provide in
secondary schools. We also promote and support local and national
campaigns, like Talk to Frank.