Articles Tagged ‘drug-driving - Brake the road safety charity’

Brake urges drivers: save lives by pledging ‘not a drop not a drag’, as police launch drink and drug drive crackdown

Monday 1 June 1015

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC, formerly the Association of Chief Police Officers) launches its annual summer drink and drug driving enforcement campaign today (1 June 2015). Brake, the road safety charity, is backing the campaign and urging drivers to enjoy themselves responsibly this summer, and pledge not to drink any alcohol or take any drugs before getting behind the wheel – not a drop, not a drag.

The enforcement campaign will see police across England and Wales stepping up roadside alcohol and drug checks, and warning the public about the risks. For the first time, the summer crackdown will see the use of roadside drug screeners, following the introduction of a zero-tolerance drug drive law in March 2015.

As part of last summer’s campaign, 63,688 drivers were breathalysed, of who 4,108 failed the test – a slightly increased failure rate on the year before, possibly due to increasingly targeted enforcement.

As the weather improves over the summer, some people may be tempted to have a drink as they travel to and from BBQs, festivals and other events. Brake is urging everyone to leave the car at home or ensure they have a completely sober designated driver for summer festivities, and to look out for friends and family by making sure they plan ahead to get home without putting lives at risk.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said:“We believe drink driving is becoming more and more socially unacceptable in the UK, further aided by the lowering of the drink drive limit in Scotland at the end of last year. The new drug drive law introduced in March was also an important step in catching risky impaired drivers. However, there is a long way to go to stamp out this menace completely, as a selfish minority continue to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. We urge all drivers to ensure they are not part of that minority; instead we can all be part of the solution by making sure we can get home safely from summer festivities, and looking out for friends and family and ensuring they stay sober behind the wheel.

“Even one small drink or small amounts of drugs make you a danger on the road, so the only safe policy is not to drink or take drugs at all if you’re driving – not a drop, not a drag. Feeling fine does not mean you’re safe to drive. That’s why Brake continues to campaign for a zero-tolerance drink drive limit, and greater priority to be given to roads policing, to make clear drink and drug driving won’t be tolerated.”

Brake campaigns for a zero-tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood through itsnot a drop, not a drag campaign. Tweet us:@Brakecharity, #notadrop.

Facts

One in eight deaths on UK roads are caused by drink drivers over the current legal limit [1] of 80mg alcohol per 100 ml blood, but drivers with even 20-50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood are at least three times more likely to die in a crash than those with no alcohol in their blood [2]. This is because even small amounts of alcohol affect drivers' reaction times, judgment and co-ordination. Alcohol also makes it impossible for drivers to assess their own impairment because it creates a false sense of confidence and means drivers are more inclined to take risks and believe they are in control when they are not [3].

Historically, levels of drug driving have not been fully recorded, but research suggests that the scale of the problem may be similar to drink-driving. A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that 18% of drivers and 16% of motorcyclists killed in road crashes had traces of illegal drugs in their system, the most common being cannabis [4]. It's been estimated 200 deaths a year may result from drug driving [5].

Brake’s advice

Even very small amounts of alcohol affect drivers' reaction times and hazard perception, making them much more likely to crash, even if they don’t feel drunk or even tipsy. The only way to ensure you're safe is to not drink any alcohol before driving, and never drive the morning after having more than one or two drinks. As a passenger, only accept a lift with a driver who's had no alcohol at all.

Planning ahead to get home safely will help avoid getting into an awkward or risky situation, such as having to refuse a lift from a driver who has had alcohol. If you're getting a lift back from a BBQ, party or night out with someone, make sure they are 100% on board with not having any alcohol at all. Always have a plan B just in case a designated driver lets you down, or arrange from the outset to get a taxi or public transport instead.

Never risk taking illegal drugs and driving. Their effects are unpredictable, but research shows they can have a disastrous impact on your ability to drive safely. Drugs and alcohol is an especially deadly combination.

It is impossible to judge how impaired you are or if a friend is impaired, so if you or a mate has been taking drugs, you should assume you're unfit to drive, even if you feel okay.

The effects of drugs can last a long time. They can also badly disrupt sleep and make you a risk behind the wheel for days as a result. That's why you can't have illegal drugs and driving in your life at the same time without posing a danger to yourself and others.

Calls for government action

Brake calls for a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood, to send a clear message that it should be none for the road. This allows for naturally occurring alcohol in the body, and is a limit set by numerous other countries including Sweden, Poland and Greece. The EU recommends a limit of no more than 50mg, and within the EU only Malta shares the UK's limit of 80mg. The limit in Scotland has already been lowered to 50mg.

Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, orThe Brake Blog. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] Final estimate for 2012, from Reported road casualties in Great Britain, final estimates involving illegal alcohol levels: 2012, Department for Transport, 2014

[2] Review of effectiveness of laws limiting blood alcohol concentration levels to reduce alcohol-related road injuries and deaths, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010

[3] ibid

[4]The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000

[5] Driving under the influence of drugs: report from the expert panel on drug driving, Department for Transport, 2013

Charity calls on First Minister to introduce drug drive law

News from Brake

16 March 2017 
news@brake.org.uk

As SNP launches its Spring conference, charity calls for zero-tolerance of drug-driving on Scotland’s roads

Brake, the road safety charity, is calling on the Scottish government to introduce a zero-tolerance policy for drug driving on the nation’s roads.

The call comes as the Scottish National Party opens its annual Spring Conference, in Aberdeen. In 2014, Scotland led the way by introducing a lower limit than the rest of the UK, for drunk-driving (50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The rest of the UK retains 80mg limit – higher than all other EU countries except Malta). Brake believes it is now time to take the next step to safe and sober drivers by introducing a similar drug driving law.

Drug driving is a major problem, hampering driver reaction time and encouraging dangerous behaviours that put the individual and other road users at risk.

The latest available UK figures, from 2015, show that 62 fatal crashes were a result of impairment by illicit drugs. In a survey, last year by Brake and Direct Line, 7% of respondents admitted to driving while under the influence of drugs, with over half doing so on a weekly basis.

In 2015, England and Wales introduced a zero tolerance drug driving ban, making it an offence to drive with certain controlled drugs (both illicit and some prescription-only drugs) but this law does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland.   

Since the drug driving ban was introduced, drug-driving arrests have soared in police forces across England and Wales. Between March 2015 and April 2016 almost 8,000 people were arrested for the offence and the number of convictions for careless driving under the influence of drugs also rose from 1,039 in 2014 to 1,490 in 2015.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “As the governing party gathers in Aberdeen, I want to send the First Minister a clear message that her government needs to root out dangerous and potentially deadly driving by introducing a drug-driving law. There’s evidence that the law is working in the other nations of the UK and will work in Scotland.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Here’s Brake’s ‘fact checker’ on drug-driving at the wheel: http://www.brake.org.uk/info-and-resources/facts-advice-research/road-safety-facts/15-facts-a-resources/facts/482-drug-driving-an-overview

Brake’s advice on drug driving and taking legal medication

It’s not just illegal drugs that make you unsafe to drive. Some medicines, such as strong pain killers and anti-depressants, are extremely dangerous to drive on. Even over-the-counter medicines such as some hay fever medication can impair your driving.

When taking any medicine, always check the label to see if it will affect your ability to drive. If you are unsure, consult your doctor or pharmacist. Never drive if the label or a health professional says your driving might be affected or if you feel drowsy or slow.

If your medication can affect driving, stop driving, not your medication – make arrangements for alternative transport. Or if you need to continue driving, seek alternative medication. 

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties. 

Convictions up, but shocking numbers still drug-driving

29 February 2016 

news@brake.org.uk

As the Department for Transport confirms a six-fold increase in the number of people caught drug-driving, we can reveal huge numbers of drivers and passengers are still taking dangerous risks when it comes to drugs. 

The survey by Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line reveals a shocking one in 16 drivers (6%) admit they drive at least once a month after having taken drugs.

The release of these figures comes a year after the introduction of new drug-drive laws designed to make it easier for police to catch criminal drivers. In the 12 months since the law change, there has been a six-fold increase[i] in the number of convictions for drug-driving nationally, but some individual police forces have seen their arrest rates go up by 800%.

On 2 March 2015 it became an offence in England and Wales to drive with even small amounts of 17 legal and illegal drugs in your system, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine. The law removed the need to prove the driver was “impaired” and set the levels so low, it effectively brought in a zero tolerance when it comes to drug-driving. The offence carries an automatic 12-month driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000 and a prison sentence of up to six months.[ii]

The change in the law coincided with the introduction of new roadside drug testing kits that are used by the police to detect even tiny amounts of the most commonly used drugs: cannabis and cocaine.

Brake and Direct Line’s survey also found one in 12 people (8%) thought they had probably or definitely been a passenger, in the last year, in a car driven by someone who had taken drugs. Worryingly, one in six people (16%) said they would get in a car with a drug driver.

The latest official road safety figures available show 47 road deaths and 197 serious injuries in 2014 were caused when a driver was impaired by some kind of drugs. This was up from 21 deaths and 181 serious injuries in 2013.[iii] But some estimates suggest around 200 people a year are killed on Britain’s roads by drivers on drugs.

Read more here about how different drugs can affect a person’s driving.

Alice Bailey, campaigns advisor for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “The hundreds of extra convictions over the last 12 months prove just how overdue this law change was. Different drugs have different effects, some slowing reaction times, others making drivers over confident and more likely to take risks, but they all have the potential to make drivers a danger to themselves and all other road users. The government must make sure the police have the necessary resources to carry out these tests and keep catching dangerous drug drivers who risk killing themselves or someone else.”

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: “The significant increase in drug-driving convictions since the change in the law last year should serve as a serious deterrent to those considering getting behind the wheel after taking drugs. This is testament to how, when road safety issues are given due prominence, positive change can be achieved.”

 

Case Study

14-year-old Lillian Groves was knocked down and killed by a speeding driver who had taken cannabis. Her killer was jailed for just eight months but was released after just eight weeks. Her family campaigned for the Government to introduce roadside drug testing devices, and still campaigns for the tougher sentences for those found guilty of drug-driving.

Lillian’s aunt, Michaela Groves, said: "These latest figures show that drug driving is a real problem, putting many lives at risk. All the hard work is making a difference but I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is expected these figures will continue to increase year on year as the drug-drive law becomes embedded nationally. I’m concerned there won't be any real change in driver behaviour until we start seeing the punishments and sentences for drug-driving as harsh as they can be. Therefore we must make the message very clear - if you drive after taking drugs, you will be banned for a long time, at least two years; and if you kill someone after taking drugs and then driving, you will be jailed for 14 years and in addition to this will receive a criminal record. I also would like to see drug-drive education become part of the driving test so young people understand the dangers when they first get behind the wheel."

Audio from Michaela available on request

Take action: Make the Brake Pledge to never drive after taking drugs or drinking any alcohol, plan ahead on nights out so everyone gets home safely, and speak out if a friend is drug-driving.

 

Full survey results

Q1: In the past year, have you driven after taking illegal drugs?

7% of drivers report having driven in the past year after having taken illegal drugs.

•           Once a week or more             3%

•           About once a month               3%

•           Less than once a month         1%

•           No, never                                93%

Q2: Within the past year, have you been a passenger with a driver who has taken illegal drugs or may still be affected by taking them?

One in five people (18%) might have been a passenger in a car driven by a person on drugs in the past year.

•           Definitely                     3%

•           Probably                      5%                  

•           Possibly/don’t know    10%

•           Definitely not               82%

Q3: If you had been relying on a designated driver to drive you home, and then found out that they had been taking drugs, would you get in?

One in six people would get into the car with a designated driver who they knew had taken drugs.

•           Yes, probably, no matter what the circumstances     3%

•           Yes, but only if they seemed safe to drive                 13%                

•           No, definitely not                                                         84%

 

Notes to Editors:

For interview opportunities with Brake and Michaela Groves, please contact Brake by email on news@brake.org.uk

Brake urges all drivers to make theBrake Pledgeto never drive after taking drugs or drinking any alcohol, plan ahead on nights out so everyone gets home safely, and speak out if a friend is drug-driving.

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or online.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com


[i] http://www.pacts.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/160211-Feb-2016.pdf

[ii] http://think.direct.gov.uk/drug-driving.html

[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/road-accidents-and-safety-statistics, Table number RAS50001

 

 

Driving for Zero

Campaigning for zero tolerance of impaired driving

Driving for Zero is Brake's campaign for zero tolerance of impaired driving. It tackles issues relating to alcohol and drugs calling for "none for the road". It also tackles driver tiredness, poor vision and other impairments relating to health. 

One in eight deaths on British roads still involves a driver over the alcohol limit [1], and in 2015 arrests for drug driving soared after a new law enabled police to arrest people who tested positive to illegal and some legal drugs. Many more drivers are impaired by tiredness, poor vision and ill health.

What are we calling for?

Driving for Zero aims to save lives through evidence-led, legislative interventions, including:

  • a lowering of the drink drive limit to an effective zero tolerance level across the UK
  • an extension, to Scotland and N. Ireland, of the England and Wales law prohibiting drug driving
  • compulsory eyesight tests for drivers
  • rigorous enforcement of laws relating to impairment, including driving hours, and tough penalties for offenders

We are also working to

  • Tackle impairment within commercial fleets, including driver health checks and technology that prevents and warns of impaired driving.
  • Educate law-abiding drivers about how to avoid low-level driver impairment, which can also cause crashes

 Take action

Visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages

 

Driving for Zero: facts and campaign updates

Key facts

Vision and ill health – I don’t really have a specific ‘ill-health fact’ bar one for sleep apnoea:

  • Road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year [1].
  • Eyesight can decline gradually and unnoticed, with people losing up to 40% of their visual acuity without being aware of deterioration [2].

Fatigue:

  • Drivers at 6am are 20 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than at 10am [3].
  • About 40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers, often in the largest vehicles on our roads that can cause the most harm in a crash [4].  

Alcohol/Drugs:

  • In 2014, 240 people in Great Britain were killed in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, largely unchanged since 2011 [5].
  • Impairment by illegal or medical drugs was officially recorded as a contributory factor in 62 fatal road crashes and 259 crashes resulting in serious injuries in 2015 in Britain [6].

Driver distraction:

  • Drivers who use phones, either hands-free and hand-held, have been found by researchers to be four times more likely to be in a crash resulting in injuries than drivers not distracted [7].
  • A recent survey by Brake and Direct Line revealed a third of drivers admit to eating at the wheel and one in 10 suffered a near-miss because they were distracted by food while driving [8].

Campaign Updates

Charity welcomes tougher penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel, 1/3/2017

 

Return to our driving for zero campaign page or visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages on these themes and more

Alcohol & Drugs 

Phones and devices

Tiredness

Vision and ill health    

End Notes.

[1] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012

[2] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016

[3] PACTS, Staying awake, staying alive: the problem of fatigue in the transport sector, 2014

[4] Flatley, D. & Rayner, L. et al, Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK (1995–2001), 2004

[5] DfT,Reported road casualties in Great Britain: Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels: 2014 (final) and 2015 (provisional),  2016

[6] Department for Transport, 2016, Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2015, table RAS50001

[7] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[8] Eating at the Wheel, Brake and Direct Line Survey, 2016

Drug drivers beware: zero-tolerance law in force today welcomed by campaigners

Monday 2 March 2015

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

A new law against drug driving coming into force today (2 March 2015) has been strongly welcomed by road safety charity Brake, which has been campaigning for the law alongside families bereaved by drug driving. The law will make it a criminal offence to drive with drugs in your body in England and Wales, removing the need to prove impairment and making it much easier to prosecute drug drivers.

The new law has specified zero-tolerance limits for a range of illegal drugs, and will be enforced with the aid of roadside screening devices. Those found guilty will face a maximum six month jail sentence, £5,000 fine, and automatic 12 month driving ban.

The extent of the UK’s drug driving problem was revealed by Brake and Direct Line last year, in their survey finding that the equivalent of one million drivers (3%) admitted to having driven on drugs in the past year. One in nine (11%) said they thought they had been a passenger with a driver on drugs [1]. It's estimated that drug driving may account for as many as 200 deaths a year in the UK [2].

As well as tackling drivers on illegal drugs, the law clarifies the position for drivers using medication, with set limits for a number of prescribed drugs that can affect driving. Drivers taking medication in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional will not be at risk of arrest.

Brake is reminding drivers that some prescription and over-the-counter medications can make you unsafe on the road, and is urging them to always read the label, or check with their doctor or pharmacist if unsure, and never to drive if their driving may be impaired. A Brake survey in June last year found one in six drivers (17%) either ignore warnings not to drive or do not check at all [3].

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “Drug driving wrecks lives, and it is a crime for which there is no excuse. We are delighted that our long-running campaign for a tougher law is finally seeing success. We believe the government is doing the right thing by taking a zero tolerance approach; we hope this will make it clear that driving on any amount of drugs won’t be tolerated. Anyone tempted to drive on drugs should be in absolutely no doubt of the penalties they face for endangering people’s lives and that it simply isn’t worth the risk. We will continue to campaign for further action to stamp out risky, illegal driving that ends and ruins lives daily. The crucial next step to back up this and other vital life-saving traffic laws is for government to give greater priority to traffic policing, to ensure the recent trend of falling traffic police numbers is reversed.”

The new law is also being welcomed by the family of 14 year old Croydon school girl Lillian Groves, who was killed outside her home by a speeding driver on cannabis in June 2010. Their campaigning was instrumental in securing the change, which is also known as Lillian’s Law.

Lillian’s mum, Natasha Groves, said: “The new law is very welcome. We are pleased the government has taken on board the severity of drug driving and acted accordingly by implementing zero-tolerance limits, roadside drug testing and serious penalties for those found guilty. The legislation is now up to date and fit for purpose. Having to prove impairment will no longer be a matter of judgement, but a testable fact.

When we learnt, in 2011, that this was not already the case, it was incomprehensible. We have fought tirelessly since losing Lillian, and our determination has brought about this significant change. It has been a tough and emotional journey for us all. Lillian is not the only one to have lost her life through the ignorance, arrogance and stupidity of those who mix drugs with driving. Those who continue to drive while on drugs from 2 March will now have so much to lose. We have achieved this law change in Lillian’s name and her legacy will live on and our roads will be that bit safer.”

Find out more about Brake’s not a drop, not a drag campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, #NotADrag.

Facts

Illegal drugs have a variety of very serious negative effects on driving ability, and the effects can be highly unpredictable given their unregulated and variable nature. Drugs affect different people in different ways and the effects can last for days, sometimes without that person being aware of it. The likely effects of some common illegal drugs on driving include:

  • Cannabis slows your reaction times, affects your coordination and concentration and makes you drowsy [4].
  • 'Stimulant' drugs such as ecstasy, speed and cocaine distort your perceptions and make you jumpy. They can also make you over-confident or paranoid and confused [5].
  • Heroin and other opiates make you feel relaxed and sleepy, slowing reaction times and impairing coordination [6].

Historically, levels of drug driving have not been fully recorded, but research suggests that the scale of the problem may be similar to drink-driving. A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that 18% of drivers and 16% of motorcyclists killed in road crashes had traces of illegal drugs in their system, the most common being cannabis [7]. It's been estimated 200 deaths a year may result from drug driving [8].

As of today (2 March 2015), it is an offence to drive with drugs in your body in England and Wales, regardless of whether impairment is proven. The offence carries a maximum six month jail sentence, maximum £5,000 fine, and automatic 12 month driving ban. Roadside drug testing devices will be used by police to catch drug drivers.

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can also impair your ability to drive safely, for instance by causing drowsiness or affecting reactions times, coordination, concentration or vision. These include some cough and cold medicines, anti-inflammatories, anti-histamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, epilepsy drugs and sleeping pills [9].

Brake’s advice 

  • Never risk taking illegal drugs and driving. Their effects are unpredictable, but research shows they can have a disastrous impact on your ability to drive safely. Drugs and alcohol is an especially deadly combination.
  • It is impossible to judge how impaired you are or if a friend is impaired, so if you or a mate has been taking drugs, you should assume you're unfit to drive, even if you feel okay.
  • The effects of drugs can last a long time. They can also badly disrupt sleep and make you a risk behind the wheel for days as a result. That's why you can't have illegal drugs and driving in your life at the same time without posing a danger to yourself and others.
  • When taking any medication you should always check the label to see if it could affect your ability to drive. If the label says your driving could be affected, it could make you drowsy, or not to drive if you feel drowsy, then assume you could be impaired and don't drive on it. If you are unsure if your medication could affect driving, consult your doctor or pharmacist. Never drive if the label or a health professional recommends you don't, or says you could be affected, or if you feel drowsy or slow.
  • If your medication affects your driving, stop driving, not your medication – make arrangements for alternative transport, or if you need to drive seek an alternative medication.

Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on Twitter or Facebook. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] Public urged to speak out to stop the UK’s million drug drivers, Brake, 2014 http://www.brake.org.uk/news/1254-dl-drugdrive-aug14
[2] Driving under the influence of drugs: report from the expert panel on drug driving, Department for Transport, 2013
[3] Drivers clueless about dangers of over-the-counter drugs as hayfever season starts, Brake, 2014 http://www.brake.org.uk/news/1237-dlmedication-jun14
[4] A-Z of Drugs: Cannabis, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[5] A-Z of Drugs: Cocaine, Ecstasy, Speed, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[6] A-Z of Drugs: Heroin, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[7] The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000
[8] Driving under the influence of drugs: report from the expert panel on drug driving, Department for Transport, 2013
[9] State of the road: medication and driving, Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, 2011

Drug driving

Dtec International Limited is pleased to sponsor this page.

sober2strap

Key facts:

• Impairment by illegal or medical drugs was officially recorded as a contributory factor in 62 fatal road crashes and 259 crashes resulting in serious injuries in 2015 in Britain [1], but experts estimate the true figure could be much higher;
• One in six bodies of dead drivers (18%) and 16% of the bodies of dead motorcyclists were found to have illegal drugs in their bodies, in research commissioned by the Department for Transport published in 2001. About 6% of dead drivers and dead motorcyclists had taken medicines that could have affected their driving [2];
• One in six (17%) of 1,396 randomly-tested Glasgow drivers in 2005 had taken at least one illegal drug, with the most common being MDMA and cannabis [3];
• After extensive campaigning by Brake and others, in 2015, legislation came into force in England and Wales, banning driving on certain listed illegal and prescription drugs (previously it was only a crime if there was evidence of impaired driving) [4]. Similar laws have not yet been adopted in Scotland or Northern Ireland;
• The new law’s enforcement requires use of type-approved testing devices. However, at present, type approval has only been given to devices able to identify just two of the drugs listed as illegal to drive on (cannabis and cocaine) [5]. There is no type-approved testing device for MDMA as yet;
• Despite this limitation, between March 2015 and April 2016, almost 8,000 people were arrested for drug-driving in England and Wales [6];
• There is evidence that police are able to target effectively who they drug screen. During the one-month Christmas 2015 drink and drug drive campaign, 1,888 targeted drug screening tests were carried out in England and Wales, and nearly 50% were positive [7].
Many illegal and medicinal drugs seriously impair driving ability. In Britain, impairment by illegal or medical drugs was recorded as a contributory factor in at least 62 fatal road crashes and 259 serious injuries in 2015 [8]. Experts have estimated the true figure could be much higher.

Illegal drugs: prevalence among drivers

In research carried out in 2005 in Glasgow, 1,396 drivers were stopped at random and asked to participate voluntarily in a saliva test. One in six (17%) tested positive for at least one drug. In 85% of cases, one drug had been taken, with the most common drugs being MDMA (ecstasy) (more than 4% of those tested) and cannabis (more than 3% of those tested). The research was part of the EU-funded IMMORTAL project (Impaired Motorists, Methods of Roadside Testing and Assessment for Licensing) [9].

Self-admission rates in surveys are predictably lower, but still at very significant levels. A Brake and Direct Line 2016 survey found 7% of drivers surveyed admitted driving on illegal drugs in the past year (with nearly half of these saying they do it weekly or more), and one in five think they may have been a passenger with a driver on drugs. One in seven (16%) say they wouldn't always speak out to stop a friend driving on drugs [10].

Illegal drugs and rising prevalence in bodies of dead drivers

UK government-commissioned research by TRL (the Transport Research Laboratory), published in 2001, found illegal drugs (with the most common being cannabis) in the bodies of 18% of drivers and 16% of motorcyclists (out of more than 1,000 drivers who died in road crashes) [11].
This study was a repeat of a study carried out by TRL looking at dead drivers in the 1980s; that earlier study had found evidence of illegal drug use in the bodies of only 3% of drivers.
This useful research has unfortunately not been repeated more recently by the government.

Effects of illegal drugs

The effects of illegal drugs can be highly unpredictable. However there are a number of adverse effects on driving ability [12].

Effects of drugs most commonly found in the systems of British drug drivers

Cannabis: This slows reactions; affects concentration; often gives a sedative-like effect, resulting in fatigue; affects co-ordination [13]. Research using driver simulators has found cannabis makes drivers less able to steer accurately and slower to react to another vehicle pulling out [14].

MDMA (ecstasy): This makes the heart beat faster, which can cause a surge of adrenaline and result in a driver feeling over-confident and taking risks. Short-term risks can also include anxiety, panic attacks, confused episodes, paranoia or even psychosis, all of which can have a negative impact on drivers [15].

Cocaine: This causes over-confidence and can cause erratic behaviour. After a night out using cocaine, people may feel like they have flu, feel sleepy and lack concentration [16].

Other drugs and their effects:

Dissociative drugs: Common ones are ketamine and PCP. These can cause muscle paralysis; hallucinations; confusion, agitation, panic attacks; and memory impairment [17].

Hallucinogens: Most common ones are LSD (Acid) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin). Can speed up or slow down time and movement, making the speed of other vehicles difficult to judge. Causes colours, sounds and objects to appear distorted. They can cause disorientation, confusion, panic, fatigue and nausea [18] [19].

Amphetamines and methamphetamines: This includes speed (and more powerful versions including ice (crystal meth)). These drugs make people feel wide awake and excited, causing erratic behaviour and risk-taking; and can make people panicky. Users have difficulty sleeping, so will also be tired for days [20].

Opiates: This includes heroin and opium. They have a sedative affect, slowing reaction times, causing inappropriate responses, reduced coordination and reduced ability to think clearly. They cause blurred vision and drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. [21]

Illegal drugs and estimates of how much they increase crash risk

Some studies have sought to identify the risk rate of drug drivers being involved in fatal or serious crashes. 

A study of fatal crashes in France between 2001 and 2003 concluded cannabis almost doubles the risk of being involved in a fatal crash [22]. Analysis of road crash hospital admissions in Canada between 2009 and 2011 found cannabis use increases the risk of being involved in a serious crash by four times [23].

The EU-commissioned “DRUID” research programme into the risks found fatal or serious injury crash risk increased by:
• 2 times for drivers on cannabis;
• 16 times for drivers on cannabis combined with alcohol;
• 2-10 times for drivers on cocaine or opiates;
• 5-30 times for drivers on amphetamines [24].
Separate studies have found MDMA to be impairing when driving [25].

Combining illegal drugs with alcohol increases risk: analysis of fatal crashes in the USA found drivers who have consumed both are 23 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers [26].

Medicinal drugs

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications impair ability to drive safely, for instance causing drowsiness, affecting reaction times, coordination, concentration or vision.

Warnings on medication can be vague or in small print only. They may indicate there is a risk of impairment but not relate it to driving. They may leave it to the user to judge their own level of impairment (which can be hard).

In some countries, warning labels are required to be more obvious and give clearer advice on driving. For example, in Australia medications are legally required to display a visible warning label if a driver can be affected [27].

Effects of medicinal drugs

Medical drugs that can impair driving include some cough and cold medicines, anti-inflammatories, anti-histamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, epilepsy drugs and sleeping pills.

Many drivers are unaware: a Brake and Direct Line survey found three in 10 drivers (30%) are unaware some hay fever and allergy medications can impair driving, more than half (53%) are unaware of the risks of decongestants and four in 10 (40%) don’t know cough medicines can impair driving [28].

Among hay fever medications, earlier varieties of anti-histamines are known to cause drowsiness, and some impair coordination and reaction times in a similar manner to alcohol [29]. Second- and third-generation antihistamines have also been found to cause drowsiness in some people [30].

Prevalence among drivers

A survey by Brake and Direct Line found one in six (17%) UK drivers admit either ignoring warnings that medication can cause side effects that could impair their driving ability, or not checking labels for such warnings. Almost half (44%) of drivers who use hay fever medication admit sometimes or never checking the instructions to see if it will affect their driving ability [31].
Medicinal drugs and crash risk

UK government-commissioned research by TRL (the Transport Research Laboratory), published in 2001, found 5% of drivers and 4% of motorcyclists who died in road crashes had taken medicines that could have affected their driving [32].

A Norwegian study found the risk of being involved in a road crash doubled or tripled, depending on the type of drug, for up to seven days after being prescribed medicinal drugs (including opiates, tranquillizers, hypnotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and penicillin), with a marked increase in users prescribed opiate painkillers and some tranquilizers [33].

Research from New Zealand found drivers who have taken any psychoactive illegal or medical drugs (such as some medicines used to treat bipolar disorder) are more than three times more likely to be at fault in collisions than sober drivers [34].

Learn more: Read the Brake and Direct Line Fit to drive report.

The law

In the UK, it is an offence to drive impaired by drugs.

In England and Wales, it is also an offence (since 2015 under the Crime and Courts Act) to drive with certain controlled drugs listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in your system. These basically comprise the most commonly taken illicit drugs plus some prescription-only drugs. This law does not apply in Scotland nor Northern Ireland.

Police can stop and test any driver they suspect of being on drugs, and may also test if a driver is stopped for another offence, or if they are involved in a crash.

The illegal drugs banned are: cannabis, cocaine, MDMA, LSD (acid), methamphetamines (ice (crystal meth)), ketamine, and heroin. The limits for these drugs are extremely low; effectively zero tolerance.

Medicinal drugs are banned at certain levels. Drugs banned include benzodiazepine tranquillizers at the following levels: diazepam 550ug/L, clonazepam 50ug/L, temazepam 1,000ug/L, flunitrazepam (commonly known as rohypnol) 300ug/L, lorazepam 100ug/L and oxazepam 300ug/L.

Methadone (commonly prescribed to opiate addicts) is banned at 500ug/L. The painkiller morphine is also banned at 80ug/L.

Amphetamine is also listed as a banned substance, either as a medicinal or illicit drug depending on use.

The limits for medical drugs are set at level where they are thought to begin to affect driving, as advised by a panel of medical experts [35].

The need for type-approved testing devices that detect more drugs

The law is reliant on police having access to drug testing devices that are “type approved” to test for a particular drug. Police do not have access to such devices to test for most of the drugs covered in the law.

In March 2015 devices that can test only two of the 17 drugs featured in the Act (cannabis and cocaine) were given type approval for use in roadside drug screening [36].

Experts have argued that the most important priority is for a drug testing device to be approved that identifies drivers using ecstasy (MDMA). Dr Rob Tunbridge, co-author of the 2001 TRL report showing prevalence of illegal drugs in dead drivers, says: “As a first step, roadside screening devices need approval for testing of MDMA. Along with cannabis and cocaine, all social survey and epidemiological evidence suggests that these three drugs represent the major problem for drug driving in GB.” [37]

Rise in drug detection and convictions since March 2015 in England and Wales

However, even with screening limited to cannabis and cocaine testing, there has been a huge rise in detection of drug drivers by police in England and Wales since the new law’s introduction in March 2015.

Arrests have soared in different police force areas by up to 800% since the law has been introduced [38].
Between March 2015 and April 2016, almost 8,000 people were arrested for drug-driving in England and Wales according to a Freedom of Information answer provided to the BBC by the government [39].

During the Christmas 2015 drink and drug drive campaign alone, 1,888 targeted drug screening tests were carried out in one month across England and Wales, and nearly 50% were positive [40].

Conviction data is beginning to emerge. Information held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in February 2016 showed at least 619 drivers were convicted of the new offences of driving, or being in charge of a vehicle, with a drug in their system above the specified limit in 2015. Together with convictions for driving, or being in charge of a vehicle, while unfit through drugs (more than 800 convictions) and convictions for death by careless driving while unfit through drugs (3) this meant convictions for drug driving offences (known to the DVLA at the time of the provided information) rose from 1,039 in 2014 to 1,490 in 2015 [41].

Time line of how the law changed in England and Wales

2003: The government implemented the Railways and Transport Safety Act (RATS) [42] which allowed for roadside testing for drugs using “type approved” devices that test saliva or sweat. However, at that time no such type approved devices were available to police, who were reliant on “field impairment testing” (FIT) (which sets tests for a suspected driver (such as walk in a straight line) and only indicates impairment rather than provides proof).

2010: Sir Peter North published a Review of Drink and Drug Driving Policy. [43] North and a House of Commons Transport Select Committee concluded that drug screening of drivers should be introduced as soon as practically possible.

2012: An ‘expert’ panel was set up to consider the technical aspects of introducing an offence of driving after taking illegal drugs and the possibility of identifying impairing levels for these drugs.

2013: Expert panel recommended limits. [44] The panel's evidence was based partly on the Pan European study DRUID (DRiving Under the Influence of Drugs, alcohol and medicines) [45]

2013: The Crime and Courts Act made it illegal in England and Wales (not Scotland nor Northern Ireland) for “driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a concentration of a specified drug above a specified limit.”[46]

2014: Limits for drugs were specified under The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 [47]

2015 (March): Limits specified and the law is applied. Devices that can test only two of the 17 drugs featured in the Act (cannabis and cocaine) were given type approval for use in roadside drug screening.

Penalties

Following the introduction of the new legislation in England and Wales in 2015, drivers caught and convicted of drug-driving can receive a minimum 12-month driving ban; a criminal record; and a fine of up to £5,000, or up to 6 months in prison, or both. The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
A drug-drive conviction can also make it harder to gain employment, increases car insurance costs and causes difficulty when gaining a visa to travel abroad to certain countries, for example the USA. [48]


End notes

[1] Department for Transport, 2016, Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2015, table RAS50001
[2] Transport Research Laboratory, 2001, The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, report no. 495
[3] Assum T, Mathijssen MP, Houwing S, Buttress SC, Sexton B, Tunbridge RJ and Oliver J., 2005, The prevalence of drug driving and relative risk estimations. A study conducted in The Netherlands, Norway and United Kingdom. IMMORTAL EU research project, Deliverable D-R4.2. 2005. Final programme report
[4] gov.uk The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014
[5] Tunbridge, R, 2016, The preliminary effects of new drug driving legislation in Great Britain, Presentation to the October 2016 Brazil World Rescue Challenge Conference
[6] Freedom of Information request, BBC, 2016
[7] Department for Transport press release, 28 Feb 2016, Drug drive arrests on the rise
[8] Department for Transport, 2015, Reported road casualties Great Britain: Annual report 2014, Table RAS50001
[9] Assum T, Mathijssen MP, Houwing S, Buttress SC, Sexton B, Tunbridge RJ and Oliver J., 2005, The prevalence of drug driving and relative risk estimations. A study conducted in The Netherlands, Norway and United Kingdom. IMMORTAL EU research project, Deliverable D-R4.2. 2005. Final programme report
[10] Brake and Direct Line, 2016, Fit to drive: drug driving
[11] Transport Research Laboratory, 2001, The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, report no. 495
[12] PACTS, 2016, Fit to Drive?
[13] A-Z of drugs: Cannabis, Talk to Frank, undated
[14] Transport Research Laboratory, 2000, The Influence of Cannabis on Driving
[15] A-Z of drugs: Ecstasy, Talk to Frank, undated
[16] A-Z of drugs: Cocaine, Talk to Frank, undated 
[17] A-Z of drugs: Ketamine, Talk to Frank, undated
[18] A-Z of drugs: LSD, Talk to Frank, undated
[19] A-Z of drugs: Magic mushrooms, Talk to Frank, undated
[20] A-Z of drugs: Speed, Talk to Frank, undated
[21] Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, How does heroin and other opiates affect driving?
[22] British Medical Journal, 2005, Cannabis intoxication and fatal road crashes in France: population based case-control study
[23] University of Toronto, 2013, Cannabis and traffic collision risk
[24] EU DRUID Programme, 2012, DRUID Final Report: work performance, main results and recommendations
[25] Logan BKCouper FJ, 2001. Washington State Toxicology Laboratory, Bureau of Forensic Laboratory Services, Washington State Patrol, Seattle, 2001. 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) and driving impairment.
[26] Columbia University, 2013, Drug use and fatal motor vehicle crashes
[27] Australian pharmaceutical formulary and handbook (21st ed.), Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), 2009.
[28] Brake and Direct Line, 2014, Fit to drive: medication and driving
[29] University of Utrecht, 2004, Antihistamines and driving ability: evidence from on-the-road driving studies during normal traffic
[30] NHS Choices, 2015, Antihistamines – side effects
[31] Brake and Direct Line, 2014, Fit to drive: medication and driving
[32] Transport Research Laboratory, 2001, The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, report no. 495
[33] Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 2007, Risk of Road Traffic Accidents Associated With the Prescription of Drugs: A Registry-Based Cohort Study
[34] Queensland University of Technology, 2012, Medications and driving: community knowledge, perceptions and experience
[35] Department for Transport, 2015, Table of drugs and limits
[36] Tunbridge, R, 2016, The preliminary effects of new drug driving legislation in Great Britain, Presentation to the October 2016 Brazil World Rescue Challenge Conference
[37] ibid
[38] Department for Transport press release, 28 Feb 2016, Drug drive arrests on the rise
[39] Freedom of Information Request, BBC, 1 June 2016, Drug driving: almost 8,000 arrests
[40] Department for Transport press release, 28 Feb 2016, Drug drive arrests on the rise
[41] Freedom of Information Request, DVLA, 16 Nov 2016, Number of Drug Driving Convictions
[42] Railways and Transport Safety Act, gov.uk, 2016
[43] Sir Peter North, June 2010, Report of the Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law
[44] Wolff et al., 2013, Driving under the influence of drugs
[45] EU DRUID Programme, 2012, DRUID Final Report: work performance, main results and recommendations
[46] Crime and Courts Act, 2013
[47] The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014, gov.uk
[48] Drugs and Driving: the law, Department for Transport, 2016


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New figures show "major inconsistencies" in drug driving arrests

News from Brake
Thursday 27 July, 2017
news@brake.org.uk

BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat has today released data on drug driving arrests since new drug driving laws came into effect in March 2015. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has said the wide regional variation in arrests point towards a "worrying" pattern of enforcement across England and Wales. Commenting on today's new figures, Jason Wakeford, spokesman for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous and totally irresponsible. The law in England and Wales, which campaigners including Brake helped bring about, has gone a long way to help tackle the problem but more needs to be done.

"The Government must make traffic policing a greater national priority, giving the police more resources to deal with drug driving throughout the year. More approved testing devices are also desperately needed; just two of the drugs listed as illegal under the law - cannabis and cocaine - can be tested for at the roadside. An approved kit to detect ecstasy/MDMA should be made a priority.

"Brake welcomes plans by the Scottish Government for new drug driving laws in 2019 and we urge Northern Ireland to follow suit as soon as possible. Those who drive in the UK under the influence of drugs have to get the message that they will be caught and face tough penalties."

[ENDS]

About Brake 

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.

We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Public urged to speak out to stop the UK’s million drug drivers

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

Members of the public are being urged to stand up to illegal drug drivers, as a survey by Brake and Direct Line finds the equivalent of one million UK drivers (3%) admit driving on drugs in the past year and just over one in ten (11%) think they may have been a passenger with one. At the same time, three in 10 (29%) admit they wouldn't always speak out to stop a friend driving on drugs.

The findings come shortly before a new law, coming into force on 2 March 2015, will make it an offence to drive with drugs in your body in England and Wales, aiming to make it much easier to prosecute drivers on drugs.

Brake and Direct Line's survey findings suggest an alarming level of ignorance or complacency about the effects of illegal drugs, especially among male and young drivers:

  • Three in 10 (29%) wouldn't always speak out if a friend was going to drive on drugs, and a significant one in 20 (5%) wouldn't speak out even if their friend was clearly out of control. This was most common among young (9%) and male (7%) drivers.
  • Young people and men are also most likely to have possibly or definitely been a passenger with a driver on drugs. 18% of young drivers and 15% of male drivers say they have been in this situation in the past year. Full results below.

The drug drive law coming into force in March will make it a criminal offence to drive under the influence of drugs, with specified zero-tolerance limits enforced with roadside drug testing devices. Those found guilty will face a maximum six month jail sentence, £5,000 fine, and automatic 12 month driving ban. The law is also known as Lillian's Law, after 14 year old Croydon school girl Lillian Groves, killed outside her home by a speeding driver on cannabis in June 2010. The tireless campaigning of her family has been instrumental in changing the law, and was honoured by Brake through an award last year.

Natasha Groves, Lillian's mum, said: "Lillian was a wonderful young girl who did not deserve to die. She lit up rooms and gave warmth to everyone she met. A child being so suddenly killed, in such a needless and destructive way, is something that tears a hole in the heart of your family; it creates a shadow over your home you can't get away from. But as a family, we felt we couldn't be defeated; we needed to do something to prevent others suffering the way we have. That's why we fought so hard for a change in the law. Nothing will ever make up for the travesty of Lillian being stolen from us, but we urge all drivers never to drive after taking illegal drugs and save other families from going through the same ordeal we have."

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Drug driving is a menace that causes absolute devastation to families and communities, and ends too many lives too soon. We all need to stand up and fight to end it, as the Groves have done so bravely following the terrible death of Lillian. Our message to everyone is never to underestimate the effects of illegal drugs on driving. If someone is on drugs, they are not fit to drive, even if they don't seem obviously impaired. Look out for your friends, and if you think they might be driving on drugs, speak out. You will stop them putting innocent lives in danger, and you may stop them going to jail."

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, commented: "Drugs and driving are a deadly combination which can have devastating effects on people's lives, particularly in combination with alcohol. Driving under the influence of illegal drugs seriously compromises someone's ability to control a vehicle, affecting their judgement, their reactions and their ability to concentrate. Direct Line welcomes the drug drive law coming into force next March and hopes it will act as a deterrent to anyone tempted to drive after having taken illegal drugs."

Read about Brake's Not a drop, not a drag campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, hashtag #notadrag. Read the survey report.

Facts
Illegal drugs have a variety of very serious negative effects on driving ability, and the effects can be highly unpredictable given their unregulated and variable nature. Drugs affect different people in different ways and the effects can last for days, sometimes without that person being aware of it. The likely effects of some common illegal drugs on driving include:

  • Cannabis slows your reaction times, affects your coordination and concentration and makes you drowsy [1].
  • 'Stimulant' drugs such as ecstasy, speed and cocaine distort your perceptions and make you jumpy. They can also make you over-confident or paranoid and confused [2].
  • Heroin and other opiates make you feel relaxed and sleepy, slowing reaction times and impairing coordination [3].

Historically, levels of drug driving have not been fully recorded, but research suggests that the scale of the problem may be similar to drink-driving. A study by the Transport Research Laboratory has found that 18% of drivers and 16% of motorcyclists killed in road crashes had traces of illegal drugs in their system, the most common being cannabis [4]. It's been estimated that 200 deaths a year may result from drug driving [5].

As of 2 March 2015, it will be an offence to drive with drugs in your body in England and Wales, removing the need to prove impairment. The offence carries a maximum six month jail sentence, maximum £5,000 fine, and an automatic 12 month driving ban. Roadside drug testing devices will be used by police to catch drug drivers.

To find out more about drugs and their effects, visit the government's drug advice website at www.talktofrank.com

Brake's advice
Never risk taking illegal drugs and driving. Their effects are unpredictable, but research shows they can have a disastrous impact on your ability to drive safely. Drugs and alcohol is an especially deadly combination.

It is impossible to judge how impaired you are or if a friend is impaired, so if you or a mate has been taking drugs, you should assume you're unfit to drive, even if you feel okay.

You don't have to be confrontational to speak out to someone who's thinking about drug driving. You can talk to them in a friendly way, explaining why it's a seriously bad idea to get behind the wheel. You could offer to call them a taxi, walk them to the bus stop or walk them home. If they are insistent on driving you might have to be more firm, take their keys or even call the police.

The effects of drugs can last a long time. They can also badly disrupt sleep and make you a risk behind the wheel for days as a result. That's why you can't have illegal drugs and driving in your life at the same time without posing a danger to yourself and others.

About the report
These survey results come from Section 6 of Report 2: Fit to Drive, part of the Direct Line and Brake report on safe driving, 2012-14, released today (Tuesday 5 August 2014). The survey consisted of 1,000 drivers and was conducted by Surveygoo. Read the report.

Full results
Q1: In the past 12 months, have you driven after taking illegal drugs?

  • 97% said no
  • 2% said yes – cannabis
  • 1% said yes – cocaine
  • 0.5% said yes – ecstasy
  • 0.5% said yes – ketamine
  • 0.5% said yes – LSD or mushrooms
  • 0.5% said yes – amphetamines
  • 0.5% said yes – heroin
  • 0.5% said yes – other

Q2: In the past 12 months, have you been a passenger in a vehicle when the driver may have taken illegal drugs or still been affected from taking illegal drugs the night before?

  • 2% said yes, definitely
  • 4% said yes, probably
  • 6% said yes, possibly
  • 89% said no, definitely not

Q3: Would you speak up if a close friend was taking illegal drugs and intending to drive?

  • 71% said yes, in any circumstances and on any amount of illegal drugs
  • 21% said yes, but only if I could see they were obviously impaired in a way that might affect their driving
  • 3% said yes, but only if they were clearly out of control or falling over
  • 5% said no

Brake
Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com

End notes
[1] A-Z of Drugs: Cannabis, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[2] A-Z of Drugs: Cocaine, Ecstasy, Speed, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[3] A-Z of Drugs: Heroin, Talk to Frank www.talktofrank.com 
[4] The Incidence of Drugs and Alcohol in Road Accident Fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000
[5] Driving under the influence of drugs: report from the expert panel on drug driving, Department for Transport, 2013

Speeding and distracted drivers revealed as most feared as charity asks everyone to sign the Brake Pledge

Contact: news@brake.org.uk

Drivers who are speeding or distracted (for example by a mobile phone) are considered to be the biggest threats on our roads, according to a survey by the road safety charity Brake, Aviva and Specsavers, marking the start ofRoad Safety Week 2016 (21-27 November).

Brake’s Road Safety Week survey asked 1,000 drivers to identify which driving behaviour, from a list of six, they thought posed the biggest danger. More than three quarters (76%) ranked speeding or distraction most highly.

Drink- and drug-driving was also ranked highly. Almost one in five drivers (18%) thinks drink- and drug-drivers are the biggest threat. 

Only three in 100 respondents (3%) consider vehicle emissions to be the biggest threat faced. Just 1% ranked not wearing a seat belt wearing as the biggest danger and 2% rated poor vision as the biggest risk.

Brake, Aviva and Specsavers are calling on everyone to sign the Brake Pledge in Road Safety Week. The Pledge aims to raise awareness of the importance of drivers staying slow(drive under speed limits), silent (never make or take calls, read or type), sober (never drive after any alcohol, or illegal or impairing drugs), sharp (stay focussed and don’t drive tired or with a health condition that impairs you. Get eyes tested every two years), secure (make sure everyone is belted up correctly) and sustainable (don’t use a car if you have the option to walk or cycle or can use public transport).  

The age of respondents was significant regarding whether speed or distraction were placed top. Younger drivers (44 and under) said speeding is the biggest threat, while drivers aged 45 and older rated distraction as their biggest fear.

Age of respondents in the Road Safety Week survey was also significant regarding the perception of vehicle emissions. While only 3% of drivers questioned rated this the biggest threat, more than three times as many (10%) of the youngest respondents (aged 18-24) rated it the biggest threat.

The Road Safety Week survey also asked drivers which risks they would admit to taking on the roads themselves. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) admitted to taking risks. Almost two thirds (63%) confessed to sometimes speeding. More than four in 10 drivers (45%) admitted they drive distances that they could easily walk. Nearly one in eight (13%) admitted to driving while distracted and nearly one in 10 (9%) confessed to not wearing a seat belt or their passengers not wearing a seat belt.

Age was significant regarding admissions of risk-taking. Older drivers (aged 45 and above) were more likely to admit to speeding than younger drivers. Conversely, younger drivers (aged 44 and under) were more likely to admit to driving distracted, driving on alcohol or drugs, or failing to belt up. 

What drivers believe is the biggest threat, and the bad behaviours they engage in, don’t match up. Older drivers are more likely to admit to speeding but say distraction is the biggest threat. Younger drivers are more likely to say they drive while distracted, and say speeding is the biggest danger. This is suggestive that people are inclined to think their own risky behaviour is not the most threatening: it’s someone else’s, different behaviour that is the problem.

One in five drivers (21%) claims they never break any of the Pledge points and regularly make both safe and sustainable choices.

Brake is working towards a world where road transport is safe, sustainable, healthy and fair, and there are zero road deaths. It is extremely challenging to change drivers’ behaviour: drivers make mistakes and some knowingly take risks. This is why Brake supports a safe systems approach to save lives and the planet. This includes 20mph limits in built-up areas, segregated routes for people on foot and bicycles, crash-protection features on vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles, and regulation and enforcement of drivers to enable safer driving choices.

However, deaths and injuries are happening right now, with five people dying on UK roads every day and 61 being seriously injured. Everyone can do their bit throughout Road Safety Week by spreading awareness of the vital importance of the Pledge rules. Here are some of the reasons why the Pledge points are so important:

SLOW: Speed contributes to more than a quarter (26%) of fatal crashes in the UK.[i]

SOBER: One in seven road deaths involves a driver over the drink-drive limit.[ii]

SECURE: Three-point seat belts mean you’re 50% less likely to die in a crash.[iii] More than one in five people (22%) who die each year are not wearing one.[iv]

SILENT: Drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to crash, whether on a hands-free or hand-held phone.[v] It’s the distraction of the call that is the problem.[vi] There is also a rise in use of infotainment systems and screens: as well as the major distraction of looking at a screen rather than the road, it also takes 27 seconds to regain full concentration after using a system/screen that uses voice command.[vii]  

SHARP: It is estimated 2,900 casualties are caused by poor driver vision.[viii] It is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision before noticing it.[ix] Fatigue and illness are also causes of impairment.

SUSTAINABLE: About 40,000 deaths are caused annually by exposure to NOx and particulates[x], and about a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions are from transport, with road traffic a major contributor.[xi] 

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, said: “Road Safety Week’s theme is action-orientated. Anyone can make and share the Brake Pledge – individuals, businesses and community organisations. Our survey shows that drivers are aware of the threat of risky behaviour by other drivers, but are inclined to play down the riskiness of their own behaviours. Everyone who drives has to step up and take responsibility. If every driver vowed to slow down, never drink alcohol or take drugs, never use their phones or other devices, always use seat belts and child restraints, drive when fit to do so, and minimise driving, then our roads would be safer places for everyone.”

National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Roads Policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said:"In recent weeks police forces across the country have been running new and innovative operations to target some of the most dangerous motorist behaviours, including mobile phone use at the wheel. But this problem can't be solved without making people take responsibility for their actions while driving. We are delighted to support this Brake campaign and urge all road users to sign and share the Pledge, but also to think seriously about the promises you are making. We need to change attitudes because a few moments' distraction at the wheel can and does cost lives. This is about more than just identifying the problem - you have to think about what you are doing, and the risks you are taking. Don't put others in danger. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road."

Peter Markey, Brand and Marketing Communications Director for Aviva says: “This new research echoes what we have also found at Aviva; that we are all inclined to think that bad driving is down to someone else. While most people act safely and sensibly behind the wheel, there are times when it’s easy to get distracted, which can have catastrophic consequences. Road Safety Week is a great opportunity for us all to take stock and think about how we drive, plan our journeys and make sure we’re taking that bit of extra care and attention. We will all benefit from safer roads, so there’s no better time to take the Brake Pledge and start making a difference today.”

Dr Nigel Best, clinical spokesperson at Specsavers, said: “I was shocked to learn that poor driver vision alone leads to 55 casualties every single week and costs an estimated £33 million. It’s every driver’s personal responsibility to ensure they are having their eyes tested frequently. We’d urge every road user to make the Brake Pledge to make our roads safer. When it comes to vision, that can be as simple as booking an eye examination, carrying a spare pair of specs in your car, not driving when tired, or even driving less and using public transport more.”

Brake Road Safety Week film premieres

To further highlight the dangers of what can happen when people don’t follow the Brake Pledge, the charity is releasing six short films, one for each of the Pledge points.

The films feature:

Avril Child from Birmingham whose daughter was killed by a speeding driver;

Elaine Corner from Wiltshire who had her leg amputated after being hit by a van driver who was distracted by a hands-free phone call;

Tina Woods from London whose son Finlay was killed outside a school by a drink-/drug-driver.

Jeremy Williamson from Liverpool who lost three friends and his brother because they were not wearing seat belts.

Brenda Gutberlet from Essex whose niece Natalie was knocked down and killed on a pedestrian crossing by a driver with poor vision.

The films are due to be premiered online to mark the start of Road Safety Week on 21 Nov.

More details and advance copies of the films will be available on request.

[ENDS]

 

Notes to Editors:

Full national survey results (regional results are available but there are no smaller breakdowns)   

We questioned 1,000 drivers from across the UK.

Q.1 Which do you think is the biggest danger on our roads? (Tick one)                                                 

Age BandTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455-64Over 65
Speeding 35% 43% 41% 43% 33% 33% 31%
Drink/Drug Driving 18% 24% 24% 14% 17% 16% 20%
Distraction (Mobiles etc) 41% 17% 26% 37% 43% 46% 45%
Not wearing seatbelts 1% 2% 3% 1% 1% 1% 1%
Impaired and uncorrected vision 2% 4% 1% 2% 1% 2% -
Vehicle emissions 3% 10% 5% 3% 5% 2% 3%

    

Q.2 Have you ever done any of the following (Tick all that apply)

Age BandTotal18-2425-3435-4445-5455-64Over 65
Driven over the speed limit 63% 50% 49% 55% 70% 65% 67%
Driven on drugs/over alcohol limit 9% 21% 16% 9% 7% 9% 6%
Used a mobile phone when driving 13% 14% 25% 18% 12% 12% 6%
Driven/passengers without seatbelts 9% 13% 18% 11% 6% 8% 6%
Driven with uncorrected vision 3% 3% 11% 3% 2% 3% 2%
Driven a 'walking distance' journey 45% 23% 30% 46% 52% 46% 45%
None of the above 21% 23% 23% 22% 13% 23% 3%

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths, serious injuries and pollution occurring on our roads every day. We work to make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake's vision is a world where there are zero road deaths and injuries, and people can get around in ways that are safe, sustainable, healthy and fair. We do this by pushing for legislative change through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Aviva:

  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers, across 16 markets worldwide
  • In the UK we are the leading insurer serving one in every four households and have strong businesses in selected markets in Europe, Asia and Canada. Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE100 index. 
  • Aviva’s asset management business, Aviva Investors, provides asset management services to both Aviva and external clients, and currently manages over £319 billion in assets.
  • Aviva helps people save for the future and manage the risks of everyday life; we paid out £30.7 billion in benefits and claims in 2015.
  • By serving our customers well, we are building a business which is strong and sustainable, which our people are proud to work for, and which makes a positive contribution to society.
  • The Aviva media centre at http://www.aviva.com/media/ includes company information, images, and a news release archive.
  • For an introduction to what we do and how we do it, please click here http://www.aviva.com/about-us/aviva/
  • For broadcast-standard video, please visit http://www.aviva.com/media/b-roll-library/
  • Follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/avivaplc/
  • Follow us on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/aviva-plc
  • For the latest corporate films from around our business, subscribe to our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/aviva

About Specsavers

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1,600 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand
  • Total revenue for the Specsavers Group was £1.7 billion in 2011/2012
  • More than 20 million customers used Specsavers globally in 2011/2012. As of end March 2012, Specsavers had 16,138,076 customers in the UK and 928,582 customers in the Republic of Ireland
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners. Together, they offer both optical and hearing services under one roof.
  • Specsavers employs more than 30,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain’s most trusted brand of opticians for the eleventh year running by the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands survey 2012
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers - 10,800,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2011
  • Specsavers was ranked No 1 for both eye tests and glasses in the UK
  • Specsavers sold more than 290 million contact lenses globally in 2011/12 and has more than a million customers on direct debit schemes. Specsavers' own contact lens brand - easyvision - is the most known on the high street
  • The hearcare business in the UK has established itself as the number one high street provider of adult audiology services to the NHS
  • Specsavers supports several UK charities including Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Sound Seekers, the road safety charity Brake, the anti-bullying charity Kidscape and Vision Aid Overseas, for whom stores have raised enough funds to build a school of optometry in Zambia and open eyecare outreach clinics in much of the country


[iii] The Handbook of Road Safety Measures, Elsevier Science 2009

[vi] Briggs, Hole & Land, Imagery-inducing distraction leads to cognitive tunnelling and deteriorated driving performance, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Vol 38, April 2016

Staying Sober: read the small print

Driving sober means more than avoiding alcohol when you are taking to the roads. Today we routinely take everyday medications that can affect our concentration and ability to drive safely. On their own, they can be dangerous. In combination with others, or with alcohol, they can be lethal, for you and for other road users.

New drug drive legislation came into force in England and Wales in 2015. In addition to illegal drugs, there are also eight prescription drugs that are included within the new law. But it’s important to remember that above and beyond that list, there is a broad range of prescription drugs that can also have an impact on concentration and therefore your ability to drive.

It is vital that you read the label and ask your healthcare professional about potential side-effects, interactions and safety concerns. So long as you are following the advice of a healthcare professional and your driving isn’t impaired you can continue to drive as usual and aren’t at risk of arrest.

The government advises drivers who are taking prescribed medication at high doses to carry evidence with them, such as prescriptions slips, when driving in order to minimise any inconvenience should they be asked to take a test by the police.

But Brake believes the warnings on medication are often not clear enough. They are also often in small print and therefore hard to spot. In some countries, warning labels are required to be more obvious and give clearer advice on driving.

In some cases these warnings tell you not to drive if you feel tired or impaired, so you need to be aware of your own reaction and use your own judgement on whether your thinking is impaired.

However, in reality it is very difficult to judge your own impairment. Don’t forget that a health condition can also create fatigue which can be exacerbated by medication. If you feel tired or drowsy, don’t take the risk – pull over or take another form of transport.

In addition, there has been a considerable increase in poly‐drug use by drivers in recent years and the road safety risk associated with driving after consuming drugs and alcohol at one time is extremely high. This applies to prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs.

Consuming a combination of drugs and alcohol, whether legal or illegal, leads to much greater accident risk when driving than a low concentration of the drug on its own. That’s one of the reasons why Brake’s pledge to never drive after drinking any alcohol or drugs is so important.

You may be below the drink-drive limit when it comes to alcohol, but if you are also taking a prescription medication that can cause impairment, you could be placing yourself in serious danger.

Octo Telematics, the number one global provider of telematics for the auto insurance industry, supports Road Safety Week and the pledges Brake has proposed on sober driving:

Drivers – I'll never drive after drinking any alcohol or drugs – not a drop, not a drag.

Everyone - I'll plan ahead to make sure I, and anyone I'm with, can get home safely and I'll never get a lift with drink/drug drivers. I'll speak out if someone's about to drive on drink or drugs.

Read our blog piece on Slow
Read our blog piece on Silent
Read our blog piece on Secure
Read our blog piece on Sharp
Read our blog piece on Sustainable

Systems to tackle driver impairment and distraction

Impairment through alcohol, drugs, tiredness or poor health impedes safe driving. Distraction and general inattention is also a danger. Some aspects of impairment and distraction are possible to tackle to a degree through the use of technology. 

In a 2015 report[i] commissioned by the European Commission, the UK's transport research agency TRL examined systems addressing impairment and distraction and made recommendations regarding mandatory fitment. 

Driver Distraction and Drowsiness Recogntion (DDDR)
DDDR systems aim to detect the presence of fatigue or distraction and send a warning to the driver to stop and rest. Eye movements, including slow eyelid closure and rate of blinks, can be monitored by a camera pointed at the driver. This information can be combined with detection of wider head movements, such as a nodding head. Levels of heart rate and brain function are also possible to monitor. Systems monitoring people in such ways (particularly eye movements) and then issuing a warning are commonly available as an aftermarket product, marketed to fleet operators. 

Steering and braking patterns can also give some indication of inattention, and some new vehicles come fitted with DDDR systems that monitor these patterns and warn the driver.

The TRL report recommends that eye movement detection "has the strongest evidence base for real-time detection" of fatigue. It recommends that DDDR should be considered for legislation and that "further work [is] required to determine how to define and test effectiveness and to define what action the system should take if inattention is detected."

Alcohol Detection Systems 
Alcohol interlock devices are proven technology that can prevent the vehicle ignition from operating if a breath sample detects alcohol level is above a pre-defined threshold. Some countries have introduced laws requiring them. Countries including France, Belgium and Sweden require them to be fitted to public service vehicles such as coaches and school transport. In 2016, New Zealand made them mandatory for serious and repeat drink drive offenders.

In Britain, there has been voluntary take-up among fleet operators. Coach operator National Express has fitted them since 2010. 

The TRL report says: "alcohol interlocks can offer effective and cost-beneficial improvements to road safety, particularly for offender and commercial vehicle populations." TRL recommended that all vehicles should have a "standard interface" enabling alcohol detection systems to be fitted easily. 


End notes

[i]TRL, 2015, Benefit and Feasibility of a Range of New Technologies and Unregulated Measures in the fields of Vehicle Occupant Safety and Protection of Vulnerable Road Users


Updated: October 2016