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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Drug Driving Laws


Date: 04-Apr-2016

New drug driving laws came into effect on the 2nd March 2016.  They only apply to England and Wales and not to Scotland or Northern Ireland.  The Road Traffic Act 1988 has been amended to include an offence of driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle when under the influence of a specified controlled drug exceeding the maximum legal limit for that particular drug.

The legislation now contains sixteen specified drugs - eight illegal and eight medicinal.  This article ONLY deals with the medicinal drugs.

If a person has been prescribed any of the following drugs it is still possible for them to drive even if over the limit, provided their driving is not impaired.  If in doubt they should contact their own doctor.

•    amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline
•    clonazepam
•    diazepam
•    flunitrazepam
•    lorazepam
•    methadone
•    morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
•    oxazepam
•    temazepam

The most worrying feature of these new provisions partly relates to Codeine based drugs that may be purchased over the counter.  Codeine reacts with an enzyme in the liver and converts it to morphine.  Whilst this alone may not be enough to take a person over the limit, a cocktail of these with other prescribed drugs might.  As the morphine produced varies with the dosage taken and the body’s own metabolism, medical advice should be sought if there is any doubt.

Whilst there is a defence to the new law where the drugs are legal and being taken for medicinal reasons, the same may not apply to insurance which may be invalidated.

Drivers should always check medication with their doctor or pharmacist if in any doubt at all.

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