Drug Driving & Car Insurance

Drug driving is the act of driving under the influence of any drug – legal or illegal – that could impair your ability. 

New and tougher laws were put in place in England and Wales on 2 March, 2015 to increase the punishment for anyone caught driving under the influence of drugs regardless of whether they’re allowed to have them. 

This effectively means that, even if you’ve been prescribed medication by your doctor, you could still be breaking the law if you take them and get behind the wheel of your car. 

Not all types of medication will get you in trouble – please consult with your doctor or pharmacist should you need further information.

The main offenders are from the opiate family, so you should be particularly careful if you’ve been prescribed strong painkillers, but even over the counter medications can be a problem. If you’re not sure whether your medication will be a problem, always consult your doctor or your pharmacist. 

Which medicinal drugs can be a problem for drivers?

It’s not only painkillers that can impair your ability to drive. Medication for anxiety, depression and sleep disorders can all be problematic – especially if you take more than the prescribed amount. 

Here are a few of the legal drugs to watch out for: 

  • Diazepam (e.g. Valium) 
  • Flunitrazepam (e.g. Rohypnol) 
  • Temazepam (e.g. Temazepam Focus)
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Lorazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Clonazepam

Unsurprisingly, if you’re found to have taken illegal substances punishments could be even worse, not to mention the fact that you’re more likely to be involved in an accident when driving under the influence of drugs. 

The Department for Transport have provided a list of eight drugs most associated with illegal use, with limits set at a level where any claims of accidental exposure can be ruled out.   

  • benzoylecgonine = 50µg/L
  • cocaine = 10µg/L
  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (cannabis) = 2µg/L
  • ketamine = 20µg/L
  • lysergic acid diethylamide = 1µg/L
  • methylamphetamine = 10µg/L
  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) = 10µg/L
  • 6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin) = 5µg/L
*Threshold limit in microgrammes per litre of blood (µg/L)

How do the police identify drug drivers?

When the police see someone driving erratically, they’re allowed to stop the car and perform sobriety tests. And because they’re taking a tougher stance on drug driving they’re also performing roadside checks. If it is found that you were driving under the influence of drugs, you may be subjected to further testing at a police station to ascertain what drugs you took and in what quantities. 
If you’re caught driving under the influence of drugs you can receive a minimum one-year driving ban, a fine of up to £5000 and a maximum of six months in prison. 

How else can drug driving affect drivers?

If you’re convicted of drug driving, you could find it harder to get insurance – especially if you receive a driving ban as some insurers will consider you too much of a risk. 
Even if you can find an insurer, it’s likely your premiums will be much higher than they would have been before your conviction. 
If you’ve been prescribed new medication by your GP always read the label and follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter to avoid driving under the influence. 
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