24.07.2024

Drug-driving hits an all-time high as road safety charities warn of ‘epidemic’

The number of motorists drug-driving has hit a record high with the offence piling pressure on A&Es and the courts, figures suggest.

Road safety charities warn the dangerous behaviour is putting the drivers, their passengers and members of the public at serious risk of harm.

They are calling on ministers to clamp down on offenders, who may drive erratically or see their reaction times slowed as a result of the narcotics.

Almost 2,500 people were injured in accidents linked to drug-driving in 2021, which is up more than 260 per cent since 2012, according to the Department for Transport.

Meanwhile, the number of convictions are increasing year on year to 12,500 in 2019, Criminal Justice System Statistics show.

Charli Charalambous, who was caught behind the wheel when she was eight times the drug driving limit following a cocaine binge the night before, was this month handed a £120 fine and banned from the roads for 12 months

Road safety charities warn the dangerous behaviour is putting the drivers, their passengers and members of the public at serious risk of harm

Road safety charities warn the dangerous behaviour is putting the drivers, their passengers and members of the public at serious risk of harm

Nearly half of these crimes (44 per cent) are perpetrated by repeat offenders, with many cases occurring within one year.

IAM RoadSmart, the road safety group which analysed the figures, described the scale of the problem as an ‘epidemic’.

But it fears there is no sign of the issue letting up, as its new survey of 2,028 motorists found one in ten has driven under the influence of illegal drugs or been a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drugged-up driver.

Furthermore, 6 per cent said they would be comfortable driving while under the influence of illegal drugs and 14 per cent would not stop a family member or friend who was planning to drive while under the influence of drugs.

It comes amid reports that some police officers are resorting to taking drug-driving suspects to hard-pressed A&E departments to take blood samples in the push for prosecutions.

IAM RoadSmart said ‘inefficient testing protocols’ mean blood samples have to be taken by a healthcare practitioner despite the NHS coming under record pressure.

Its most recent annual Safety Culture Report showed that motorists consider drink and drug-drivers as one of the biggest risks to their personal safety – more than other issues such as speeding on residential streets, people driving aggressively or not wearing a seat belt.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: ‘With cases surging and attitudes as they are, Britain’s drug-drive picture is a bleak one.

‘IAM RoadSmart has already proposed a smart package of solutions to help address this issue, including: developing a dedicated drug-drive course, prescription reform and for the government to finally release the outcome of its own drug-driving consultation.

‘If these are actioned, we might finally see progress made on this critical road safety issue before more lives are tragically lost.’

IAM RoadSmart was formed in March 1956 and is the UK’s largest road safety charity.

It has a vision of a society where all road users can safely and sustainably use the public highways together.

It does this through a range of means including through advanced driving and riding tests.

Mother-of-one, 34, who was eight times drug driving limit after cocaine binge the night before is handed a £120 fine and banned from roads for 12 months

A mother-of-one who was caught behind the wheel when she was eight times the drug driving limit following a cocaine binge the night before has been handed a £120 fine and was banned from the roads for 12 months.

Charli Charalambous, 34, had failed a roadside drugs test after being stopped in her Audi A3 Sport by police at 3pm the day after a night out with friends.

Blood tests showed she had more than 400 mcg of benzoylecgonine (BZE) per litre of blood. BZE is a breakdown product of cocaine and the legal limit is 50 mcg/l. Police do not record levels above 400 mcg/l.

The administrative assistant, from Prenton, near Birkenhead, admitted to drug driving as she slept for 12 hours before hitting the road and did not realise the breakdown product of cocaine would be still in her system.

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