Drug Driving

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Drunk driving laws are well-known, but the rules around driving while under the influence of drugs are less clear to many. However, it’s important to understand that drugged driving regulations apply not only to illegal substances but also to prescription medications if taken above prescribed doses.

With surveys suggesting over 5% of drivers admit to getting behind the wheel while on drugs, being informed on the legal limits and penalties is critical. Both illegal and prescription drugs can impair the faculties needed for safe driving, just as alcohol does.

So drugged driving laws aim to deter this dangerous behaviour and penalise those who disregard the risks to themselves and others on the road. Knowing the facts on drugged driving regulations, and sticking to driving 100% sober, helps keep everyone safe.

What are the drug driving laws?

Drugged driving laws cover both illegal substances and prescription medications. It is against the law to operate a vehicle while impaired by any drug, whether obtained legally or illegally.

Additionally, having specified amounts of illicit drugs in your system is illegal in itself, even if you don’t appear obviously impaired.

It’s important to note that some legal prescription drugs can also put drivers over the legal limits. Consulting with your doctor about potential side effects and driving risks is critical.

To prioritise safety and avoid unintentional violations, stay informed on drugged driving regulations. The key is to never operate a vehicle if you have used any substance that could potentially impair your faculties.

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Illegal drugs

Driving under the influence of drugs can lead to severe consequences. Specific threshold limits are defined for various substances to prevent drug-impaired driving.

These limits, while extremely low, are not set at absolute zero. This minor allowance accounts for unintentional or passive exposure. For instance, you might unintentionally be exposed to cannabis smoke at an outdoor event without direct consumption.

To give you a clearer perspective, here’s a table detailing the permissible levels for some prevalent illegal recreational drugs:

Drug name

Threshold limit in micrograms per litre of blood (µg/L)

Benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine)










Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)


Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)




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Prescription medicines

Driving under the influence of prescription medications is a matter of both safety and legality. Although these drugs may be legally prescribed, it’s crucial to understand that driving can be illegal if these medicines impair your capabilities on the road.

Additionally, having certain prescription drugs in your bloodstream above the designated limits, especially if they haven’t been prescribed to you, can lead to legal consequences.

Here’s a detailed table showcasing some of the prescription medications and their respective limits as recognised by the law:

Drug name

Threshold limit in blood (µg/L)

Amphetamine e.g. dexamphetamine or selegiline












Morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs e.g. codeine, tramadol or fentanyl






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How do drugs affect your ability to drive?

Driving while under the influence of drugs can be as hazardous as driving with alcohol in your system. Whether they’re illicit substances or legally prescribed medications, their effects on your cognitive and motor skills can be profound.

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It’s imperative to recognise these effects and prioritize safety. If there’s any uncertainty regarding your capability to drive after consuming drugs, it’s always safer to refrain from getting behind the wheel.

When impaired by drugs, a driver may experience:

  • Slower Reaction Times: Your ability to respond promptly to unexpected events on the road can be compromised.

  • Impaired Coordination: This can affect your ability to handle the vehicle effectively, making it challenging to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

  • Blurred Vision: Reduced clarity can compromise your ability to perceive obstacles or interpret road signs.

  • Over-confidence: Drugs might make you feel invincible, leading you to make decisions you wouldn’t normally make.

  • Loss of Concentration: Essential for staying alert on the road, a dip in concentration can result in missing critical cues or signs.

  • Increased Risk-taking Behaviour: Drugs can encourage riskier driving practices, which might include speeding or ignoring traffic rules.

  • A Tendency for Inappropriate Driving: This includes erratic speeds, tailgating, and other forms of aggressive driving.

  • Difficulty Judging Distances and Speeds: Misjudging these can lead to accidents, especially at intersections or while overtaking.

Drugs can distort your perception, decision-making, and motor skills, all of which are pivotal for safe driving. Always consult with a healthcare professional about the potential side effects of medications and their impact on your driving capabilities.

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What happens if I’m stopped for drug driving?

If you’re pulled over by the police on suspicion of drug driving, there’s a set protocol that officers typically follow to assess your condition.

Firstly, the police might request you to undergo a ‘field impairment assessment‘. This isn’t just a fancy term; it involves a series of physical and cognitive tasks to gauge your sobriety.

You could be asked to walk in a straight line, stand on one foot, or touch your nose with your fingertips while your eyes are closed. These tests help officers determine if your motor skills and coordination are compromised.

In addition to these physical tests, officers are equipped with roadside drug-testing kits. These kits are designed to provide immediate results for certain drugs, particularly cannabis and cocaine. A positive result can be grounds for further investigation.

If there’s suspicion that you might be under the influence of drugs other than cannabis or cocaine, or if you show signs of impairment despite a negative roadside test, the next step typically involves being taken to a police station.

Here, you would undergo a more comprehensive drug test. This could involve a blood or urine test to detect a wider range of substances and determine their concentrations in your system.

Being caught drug driving has significant legal and personal implications. It can lead to fines, loss of licence, and even imprisonment, not to mention the potential risk to your own life and the lives of others on the road.

It’s always best to stay informed and make responsible choices. If in doubt, opt for alternate transportation or designate a sober driver.

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What are the penalties for drug driving?

Driving under the influence of drugs is a grave offence, and the consequences reflect the severity of the act. A conviction can alter the course of your life in myriad ways, both legally and personally.

Here are the penalties that one might face if convicted of drug driving:

Legal Penalties:

  • Driving Ban: A minimum of a one-year disqualification from driving, ensuring you’re off the roads and hopefully reflecting on the risks you posed.
  • Fines: There’s no cap on the fine you can be slapped with, meaning the courts can determine the amount based on the severity of the offence.
  • Imprisonment: You could face up to six months in jail for a standard drug driving offence. However, this duration can skyrocket to up to 14 years if your drug-impaired driving results in a fatal accident, classed as “causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs.”
  • Criminal Record: A drug driving conviction isn’t something that fades away; it will be part of your criminal record.
  • Endorsement on Driving Licence: A conviction note will be present on your driving licence for 11 long years, serving as a reminder of the offence and as information for any relevant authorities.
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Additional Repercussions:

  • Travel Restrictions: Countries, notably the USA, might deny your visa application if they spot a drug driving conviction. This could hamper personal or professional travel plans.
  • Employment Issues: For those whose profession requires driving, a drug driving conviction could mean the end of your career. Employers in other sectors might also think twice before hiring someone with such a record, as it might raise concerns about responsibility and decision-making.

The repercussions of drug driving extend far beyond a simple fine or ban. The ripple effects can touch every facet of your life, from your professional aspirations to personal freedoms.

Think about the broader implications and prioritise safety and responsibility when on the road.

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Will a drug driving conviction affect my car insurance?

Being convicted of drug driving can have a profound impact on your car insurance in several ways. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Skyrocketing Premiums: Upon being found guilty of drug driving, your motor insurance premiums will likely shoot up considerably. This is due to the increased risk perception associated with your driving profile.

  • Mandatory Disclosure: You have to be transparent with your insurance provider. If you have a drug driving conviction, you are legally obligated to inform them. Concealing such information can lead to further complications, including policy invalidation.

  • Considering SORN during a Ban: If you’re handed a driving ban as a result of the conviction, it might be prudent to temporarily take your car off the road. Applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) will legally declare that your car isn’t being used on public roads. This can help you avoid unnecessary insurance costs during the period of your ban.

  • Challenges in Finding Cover: Post your ban, when you’re legally permitted to drive again, securing insurance can become an uphill battle. Many mainstream insurance providers might decline cover due to the perceived high risk. But all hope isn’t lost.

  • Specialised Insurance Options: Thankfully, there are specialist insurance providers catering to drivers with convictions. While they can offer you cover, be prepared for heftier premiums compared to what you might have been accustomed to pre-conviction. For further insights, you might want to explore our comprehensive guide on insurance for convicted drivers.

  • Comparing Quotes: An effective way to navigate this situation is by comparing car insurance quotes from various providers. Provide all necessary details, including information about your vehicle and any convictions, to get a clearer picture of what you’re looking at in terms of costs.

In a nutshell, a drug driving conviction complicates the car insurance landscape for you, but with informed choices and the right resources, you can find a path forward. Remember, honesty and transparency with insurance providers are of the essence.

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