Apparently the Queen's Speech will contain new measures to deal with drug driving. As the Defence Brief (link on the right hand side) points out the existing law already forbids driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and the penalties are the same for both. The problem with drug driving, which is probably highly prevalent, is the lack of any quick and reliable roadside test equivalent to the breathalyser.
Designer drugs are increasingly popular among the young, because, as a student told me, "you get more bang for the buck with pills".
Still, a 'clampdown' will please the tabloids, if it achieves nothing else.
Musings and Snippets from a recently retired JP. I served for 31 years, mostly in west London. I was Chairman of my Bench for some years, and a member of the National Bench Chairmen's Forum All cases are based on real ones, but anonymised and composited. All opinions are those of one or more individuals. JPs swear to enforce the law of the land, whether or not they approve of it. Nothing on here constitutes legal advice.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
An Answer In Search Of A Problem
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I am compelled to disagree with you on this one. As a consultant in the laboratory diagnostics industry I have to tell you that there are analytical methods suitable for roadside testing. What has been lacking is political will, and cash, among police forces to adopt them.ReplyDelete
If that can be overcome, we should all welcome whatever is announced - but only if it forces ACPOs hands. These tests will not be 100% sensitive to all known and future drug variants, but the probability is that they will be good enough to detect >95% of users under the influence.
I'd agree it seems to be a bit of a farce.ReplyDelete
There currently is also the ability for trained officers to do "fit" tests for the driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs - which doesn't need any fancy equipment. The lack of trained officers however can be a joke.
On the subject of Westminster passing laws that are already on the books. Cast your eye northwards sometime and see how Scotland gets by with most common laws still in effect and vast swathes of "new" problems dealable with under the old, flexible structures.
Surprised that you haven't commented on the idea reported in The Times yesterday, of magistrates sitting singly in their personal role and not in a judicial role, as part of a community justice role.Heartily approved of by the MA apparently. Not long now....
Perhaps there is a need to see exactly what is proposed before commenting ???Delete
Belgium introduced roadside drug testing a fair while ago, and has had considerable success in implementing such measures. Sur Peter North's report on drink driving did also address this issue, and recommended that this be pursued in the UK.ReplyDelete
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That should of course have read 'Sir' Peter. And I also wanted to add many thanks to TF for his detailed and helpful comments. What exactly do the Belgians do that we aren't yet capable of, I wonder?Delete
Just how comprehensive will the clampdown on drug driving be, I wonder? As each and every one of us will note if we just read the data sheet supplied with our prescription, many medically-prescribed drugs will seriously impair your driving ability. For the sake of safety and consistency, testing for these drugs should also be included. Avoidance of Classes A, B and C may not be enough!ReplyDelete
Agree with above. Tests for cannabinoids and opiates (at a minimum) are quite feasible, currently available, and would tackle a large fraction of the problem, if not all of it. Designer drugs are less commonly in use.ReplyDelete
But the problem is in the details. Many of these illegal drugs have residues that last much longer than ethanol does. For example, cocaine metabolites (various ecgonines, some as active as cocaine itself, some not) can be detected for a week or more after a single use of crack. Tetra-hydro cannabinol and its metabolites also hang around for days, depending upon dose. In hair, these drugs can be detected literally for months after use has ceased.
There is some experimental evidence (not undisputed) that informs alcohol levels, driving ability, and (internationally varied) legal enforcement. Even so, roadside breath tests need confirmation with blood or urine in some concentration ranges.
There is almost no such evidence for other drugs of abuse. So setting up drugged-driving concentration limits and sorting out when, say, a cannabinoid roadside test will need confirmation by laboratory analysis of blood or urine is going to be complicated.
If mere presence of drug / metabolite while driving became the offence, then the tests still have lower limits of detection which would become de facto concentration limits. But that is not the approach that many countries take with alcohol, so why should it be so with pot ?
Thus, translating 'How long since the bong ?' into a driving offence turns out to be a complicated scientific problem if a numerical result is hoped to be the solution.
Just had a quick look at the original version of the Road Traffic Act 1930, it states;ReplyDelete
"Any person who when driving or attempting to drive, or when in charge of, a motor vehicle on a road or other public place is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle, shall be liable-
(a) on summary conviction to a fire not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction either to a fine
not exceeding one hundred pounds or to such imprisonment as aforesaid or to both such fine and imprisonment;"
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With respect Your Worship(s), the point is being missed. There IS a need to restate the law so as to make it more effective for what is actually a serious road safety issue.ReplyDelete
The issue is one of assessing when a person is under the influence of a drug so as to be "unfit to drive." How is this to be measured? The excess alcohol is defined quite precisely but the drug one is not. Next, there is a huge variety of drugs.
It will certainly be interesting to to see what the draft legislation actually states,
ObiterJ, the purpose of new legislation is not to re-state existing law to remind people about it. There are far more effective means of doing that than by passing new laws.ReplyDelete
Drug driving can cover anything from a motorist high on cocaine to somebody whose sleeping pills haven't worn off and probably a whole load of other things that I can't even begin to think of off the top of my head.
Can a test like the alcohol test be devised to cover every possible drug? I did study psychopharmacology as part of the neuroscience element of my first degree, but it was a long time ago. I have my doubts whether such a test could be devised that would work at the roadside.
Currently, traffic officers can administer a fitness test. I don't know exactly how it is done, but I think it is similar to the sobriety tests you see on US reality cop shows.
Further info on the Belgian methodology can be found on the Internet, of course. But it appears that there is a three stage process (and that similar procedures are followed in Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands - where what is more commonly called DUID or 'driving under the influence of drugs' is rather more memorably known as DRUID), commencing with observation or a field impairment test to try and determine whether there are any obvious signs of drug related impairment, followed by a roadside urine test, which is acknowledged to be of limited reliability, and then lab analysis where the combined results of the first two procedures give officers sufficient grounds to believe that the driver is drug impaired. The tests focus on certain categories of drug only.ReplyDelete
A roadside urine test! That conjures up some possibilities.Delete
Apparently, these tests are carried out by mobile units that are accompanied, at an accessible distance, by a police van with loo facilities, where those stopped can provide a sample. Male & female officers are included on all teams. Before dismissing this out of hand, it might be worth seeing whether there is anything we can learn from experience elsewhere.Delete
Presumably there will be an exemption for drivers caught using performance enhancing drugs.ReplyDelete
"the existing law already forbids driving under the influence of drink or drugs,"ReplyDelete
Actually it prohibits driving while unfit through drink or drugs - S4 RTA1988. Then for alcohol it has a separate offence - S5 RTA 1988 relating to driving while with an alcohol level over a set limit. This means there is no requirement to prove unfitness.
The proposed law would make drug driving the same.