Drug Driving: Mandatory rehab courses to get bans lifted under new plans

Drug Driving: Mandatory rehab courses to get bans lifted under new plans. Image credit: AdobeStock

Drug Driving: Mandatory rehab courses to get bans lifted under new plans

(Partner Content) A new strategy proposed by the government will require people convicted of drug-driving to complete a rehabilitation course before being permitted to drive again.

Drug Driving: Mandatory rehab courses to get bans lifted under new plans

Drug Driving: Mandatory rehab courses to get bans lifted under new plans. Image credit: AdobeStock

These plans form part of a wider plan to tackle the high levels of substance abuse across the UK. Currently anybody who is convicted of driving while using drugs is likely to be given a driving ban, prison sentence, or a court fine. New studies will add a further element and enforce mandatory rehabilitation courses before those convicted can return to driving. 

Current Drug Use UK

The government’s most recent survey looked at the wider picture of drug use in the UK, and found that drug use in Britain has remained relatively similar over the past 10 years. In 2019, the statistics of drug use were at 9.4% in England and Wales, 12% in Scotland, and 5.9% in Northern Ireland.

The same research also found that drug-related deaths throughout the UK were the highest since records began, with 76 deaths per million people. Two years previously in 2017, the drug-related death rate in Scotland was 229 per million, the highest rate reported in Europe in that year.

Drug Driving Review

So how is this reflected on the roads? The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recently made a review of the way that drug-driving is dealt with and found some concerning statistics. These include the following:

  • Drug driving laws are enforced at considerably different levels around the UK, with some police forces convicting ten times the number of drivers than other areas.
  • Some police forces are rationing their tests due to expense and time taken to carry out. 
  • 12,391 people were convicted of drug driving in 2019, the year this study was carried out.
  • 44% of drug driving convictions are carried out by a reoffender
  • 67% of drug driving convictions are carried out by somebody with a previous conviction.

The report focussed on a number of elements, including how frequently the test is carried out, the process used, individuals involved with drug driving cases, and the law. Some of the findings included the following:

  • Some police forces were found to be rationing tests due to their expense and the length of time taken to obtain results. This meant that police forces with more comprehensive training and procedures were convicting up to 10 times as many drug drivers.
  • Reoffending is one of the most considerable concerns with this data set; 44% of drug driving offences were committed by reoffenders. Additionally, drug drivers have an increased chance of having a criminal history than the general public. The 2017 data found that 67% of those convicted had a previous conviction.
  • Research shows that those who combine drugs and alcohol are typically considerably more reckless than those who use only one substance. Currently, sentences are the same for mono or poly-substance abuse while driving. 

The research had limitations as it was unable to look at the full impact of drug driving such as how many people die as a result of drugs on the road, and how many drug driving tests are carried out. It is suggested that this problem might be much bigger than we currently understand, and worryingly, the problem is increasing. 

Creating Safer Roads

A number of suggestions have been made regarding making Britain’s roads safer. One of the most significant changes would be the introduction of a ‘drug drive rehabilitation course’. This would be a close comparison to the current drink driving rehabilitation programmes with more comprehensive tests for existing mental health issues and drug problems, and additionally signposting to accessible treatment.

A combined drink and drug driving limit has been suggested, which lowers the current drink drive limit. This is in an effort to identify the increased risk posed by individuals who use both substances. In response to the disparities across the country, it’s been suggested there should be extra efforts made to train police forces where current convictions are low. Relatedly, a review of the current blood testing process could be made to find cost-cutting solutions.

Currently it’s difficult to obtain full data sets of injuries and offences in regards to drug driving; it has been suggested that this should be reviewed. Understanding the full picture can help us to implement lasting changes.

Tougher Drug Sentencing 

With the UK’s drug problem remaining at worryingly high levels, there are a number of proposals being put forward by the government in England and Wales. These include:

  • First time drug offenders: will be obligated to attend (and self-fund) a drug awareness course. Failure to do so will incur a penalty or they will face prosecution
  • Second time drug offenders: will be cautioned, will be obligated to attend a further drug awareness course, and be subject to random drug testing for up to three months.
  • Third time drug offenders: are likely to be charged for their offence, and as part of their conviction, may face a ban from a specific location.

Depending on the severity, individuals with multiple drug use charges could be given a drug tag to track their usage, and have their identification (including driving licence and passport) confiscated. 

The Takeaway

Drug use in the UK is at alarmingly high levels and is reeking havoc in all areas of life. With drug misuse killing more people every year than knife crime and road traffic accidents combined, a dramatic overhaul is needed to create a safer, healthier society. Drug driving is just one element of the wider picture of drug misuse in Britain.