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Scotland’s increase in Drug Driving Deaths may be linked to Cut in Alcohol Limit 

Drug use among drivers who die in accidents in Scotland has increased since the country’s drink driving limit was reduced in 2014, according to a new study.

This surprising finding has added weight to campaigners calling for Scotland to follow England and Wales’ example and introduce drug driving limits, but it’s also raised a question of whether motorists have switched to drugs as a result of the tougher drink laws.

In December 2014, the drink driving limit in Scotland was reduced to 50mg/100ml, leaving England and its Welsh neighbour with one of the highest alcohol limits in the world, at 80mg/100ml.

However, while a new drug driving law was introduced south of the border during 2015, Scotland isn’t planning on changing its legislation until next year.

But a study by researchers at Imperial College London has put pressure on the Scottish government to speed matters up, after it suggested that drivers were swapping booze for narcotics in order to fool the police.

It found that out of the 38 fatal accidents that were examined in the year before the drink limit was tightened, evidence of illegal or prescription drugs was found in 14 of the drivers (37%).

This compares with 27 drivers in 51 fatalities (53%) in the year following the change in Scotland.

Alcohol was found in six of the 38 fatalities in the year before the law change, compared with in nine out of 51 fatalities afterwards.

The research quoted a survey suggesting that many drivers do not believe their driving is adversely affected by drug use and also quoted research that suggested you were less likely to be caught drug driving than drink driving.

According to a Scottish newspaper report, detailed analysis of the results found that the proportion of fatalities where cannabis was detected had not changed following the drink drive law change.

However, there was a notable increase in the amount of opioids detected, which includes codeine, as well as antidepressants, cocaine, Valium and sleeping pills.

Drug Driving: the facts

In England and Wales, it’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.

It’s also an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you haven’t been prescribed them.

The list includes amphetamine, clonazepam, diazepam, temazepam and methadone. However, you can drive after taking these drugs if you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional and they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits.

There is a zero tolerance approach to eight drugs most associated with illegal use and including cocaine, ketamine, LSD, cannabis and MDMA.

If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get a minimum of a one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison and a criminal record.

For more information or advice on a drink or drug driving charge, call 0330 1330 081, or fill in our contact form.