Roddy Graham's Blog: 3 September 2009 - High time for drug campaign
03 September 2009
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
We've had plenty of drink-driving ad campaigns, now we're seeing the first drug-driving campaign. Considering how prevalent drug taking is these days, if only recreationally, it's well overdue.
Latest research shows that one in ten young male drivers admit to having driven after taking an illegal drug. Company car drivers are much better, only two per cent having admitted doing so in a separate piece of research. Probably more worrying still is that one in five drivers killed in a road accident may have taken drugs.
The above facts should really come as no surprise when you consider that nearly two million people in this country take illegal drugs at least once a month with Department of Health research showing that more than one-third of the population has experimented with a banned substance at least once.
Worryingly is the growing popularity of cocaine among teenagers and young adults with the number of recreational users taking cocaine or ecstasy at the weekend rising. Interestingly the use of cannabis has actually declined since it was downgraded from a Class B to C drug five years ago.
One in four of the drivers of tomorrow, secondary age schoolchildren, have admitted trying drugs with ten per cent having taken a drug in the previous month.
The hard statistics show three million people aged between 16 and 59, almost one in ten, took drugs between 2007 and 2008 with 1.9 million classified as regular users. Drug use is highest among 16 to 24 year olds, over 20 per cent having taken illegal drugs in the previous year. And use of cocaine more than trebled in the previous decade. Hospital admissions for drug poisoning rose by 43 per cent over a ten-year period.
Depressingly, in the UK, we have some of the highest levels of drug abuse in Western Europe.
The new drug-driving campaign is costing £2.3m and highlights the fact that the Police can and will stop drivers suspected of driving while under the influence. Emphasis of the campaign is on the enlarged pupils of a drug taker. Anyone found guilty faces the same tough penalties as those convicted of drink-driving a minimum 12-month ban, heavy fine and criminal record.
It won't be long hopefully before drivers face roadside drug tests when Police are equipped with a device for detecting illegal substances in saliva. In addition to the drug detector, the Government plans to have a roadside device developed to detect legal sleep-inducing drugs such as sleeping tablets and cold cures sold over the counter that can result in impaired driving. Any new 'drugalyser' would be able to detect drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis wants to make drug driving as anti-social as drink-driving. He's also looking at changing the law so that it simply becomes an offence to drive after taking illegal drugs, which can impair the ability to drive - a subtle and important change from the driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drugs.
If fleets haven't already got a policy in place relating to drug-driving, they should do so now.