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Clock counts down to new drug driving laws

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There was a fresh warning over the weekend that motorists who take high levels of over-the-counter medicines could be caught out by tough new drug-driving laws.

Under new legislation, which will come into force next month, police officers will be allowed to test for specific levels of illegal substances and prescription drugs.

There are fears that people who take painkillers, cold and flu remedies or drugs like Diazepam, used to treat anxiety, may be unaware that high doses can cause drowsiness and reduce reaction times.

Authorities claim that as many as 200 drivers, who feel excessively tired after taking their medication, are escaping prosecution each year.

Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill said that if people stuck within prescribed limits they should be safe to get behind the wheel, although they should speak to their pharmacist if in doubt.

“If you are taking your medicine as directed and your driving is not impaired, then you are not breaking the law and there is no need to worry,” he said.

“We advise anyone who is unsure about the effects of their medication or how the new legislation may affect them, to seek the advice of their doctor or pharmacist.

“There will also be a medical defence if a driver has been taking medication as directed and is found to be over the limit but not impaired.”

At present, the number of convictions for drug-driving pales into insignificance compared to those for alcohol.

But police argue that part of the problem is that they are required to prove a motorist’s ability to drive has actually been impaired, rather than simply that the person has taken a substance.

The change to the law, part of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, makes it illegal to drive with one or more specified drugs in the body, above a certain limit.

Punishments for the new drug-driving laws can include a 12-month driving ban, fines and custodial sentences. At Lester Morrill, our road traffic team has a wealth of experience representing those facing charges. To find out more about how our Leeds-based solicitors can help you, contact us today.