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New drug driving laws and roadside testing 16/01/2019 The Scottish Government has confirmed that drug driving limits and roadside testing will be introduced into Scotland on 21st October this year.

New drug driving laws and roadside testing

The Scottish Government has confirmed that drug driving limits and roadside testing will be introduced into Scotland on 21st October this year.

Existing law makes it an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs, with the penalties – reserved to Westminster – being a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000. The new offence of driving while above specified drug limits will operate alongside the current offence and carry with it the same maximum penalties.

Currently, when police suspect drug driving, they can carry out a roadside field impairment test. If the individual fails the test this provides sufficient evidence to arrest and take the driver to a police station for further tests. A doctor must certify that the person is, in their opinion, impaired to the extent that they are unfit to drive.

However, there are currently no prescribed limits for controlled drugs. The UK Government introduced provision in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which made it an offence to drive under the influence of different drug types when over a specified limit. The ability to provide specified limits for drugs is devolved, and so it has been for Scottish Ministers to decide whether there should be specified limits and, if so, what level these should be and for what drug types.

From 21st October there will be a zero tolerance approach to eight drugs most associated with illegal use, including cannabis, heroin and cocaine, with limits set at a level where any claims of accidental exposure can be ruled out.

Meanwhile, a list of other drugs associated with medical use will have limits based on impairment and risk to road safety. This will make it easier to hold drug drivers to account as there will no longer be a requirement to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner.

Regulations laid in the Scottish Parliament, subject to MSPs’ approval, will permit prosecutions where different drug types are found to be above specified levels.

“The introduction of drug driving limits will strengthen the power of Scotland’s police and prosecutors to tackle the minority of drivers who irresponsibly put themselves and other road-users at risk,” said Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. “Together with our stringent drink-driving limits, these new laws will ensure that Scotland has the UK’s most robust laws against impaired and unsafe driving.”


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