drug driving

How will the drug driving bill affect employers, contractors and staff?

The Drug Driving (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 came into force on 2nd March 2015 and if you’re an Employer whose staff drive company vehicles, you’ll be affected. If you’re a contractor or employee who drives work vehicles, this could affect you too. (Applies to England and Wales only).

What does the Act include?

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 made it an offence to drive a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. The new regulations detail the drugs that are controlled for the purposes of this offence and set out the prescribed limit of each drug that’s allowed in each person’s body – if the limit is exceeded, it’ll be an offence irrespective of the effect of a person’s ability to drive.

The new offence is called “driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit” – catchy, isn’t it?

The regulations contain limits on legal and illegal drugs that’ll be detected by new and more accurate roadside drug saliva testing kits.

The controlled drugs are:

Illegal Drugs – zero tolerance approach Threshold limit in blood (in microgrammes per litre of blood)
Benzoylecgonine 50
Cocaine 10
Cannabis 20
Ketamine 20
Lysergic acid diethyladmie (LSD) 1
Methylamphetamine 10
Heroin 5
Medicinal Drugs (risk based approach) Threshold limit in blood (in microgrammes per litre of blood)
Amphetamine 250
Clonazepam 50
Diazepam 550
Flunitrazepam 300
Lorazepam 100
Methadone 500
Morphine or Opiate or Opoid- based drugs, e.g. codeine, tramadol of fentanyl 80
Oxazepam 300
Temazepam 1000

The government advise that if you are taking prescription medicine you should continue taking them as advised by your doctor and keep evidence of your prescription medicine with you while driving (a letter from your GP would suffice).

The new law gives the police powers to test and arrest drivers suspected of driving after taking certain controlled drugs in excess of specified levels.

The regulations now allow the police to test for traces of drugs in saliva at the roadside, as well as undertaking “field impairment” tests.

The regulations include an offence for failure to provide a specimen. However, it’s a defence (called the “medical defence”) if a driver can show that the drugs were taken in accordance with directions given by the person from who the drug was prescribed or supplied.

It’s illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it’s impairing your driving. It’s also an offence to have over the specified limits of the controlled drugs in your body if you haven’t been prescribed them.

If you’re convicted of drug-driving, you can receive a minimum one-year driving ban, an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison and/or a criminal record. Your driving license will also show if you’re convicted for drug driving, which will last for 11 years.

What does this mean for Employers?

It’s thought the amount of roadside drug testing will increase now the new regulations are in force, making it more likely that one of your employees/contractors will be caught with controlled drugs in their system (whether legal or illegal).

So, if you require your staff to drive on company business (including driving to meetings in a company car), you need to consider:

  • What any absence of staff due to offences under these regulations could mean for you (or if they receive at least a one year driving ban)?
  • It could also leave the employer open to vicarious liability prosecution. Company vehicles are considered to be a ‘place of work’ so employers must ensure the health and safety of its employees while driving as well as ensuring that others are not put at risk by their employee’s work-related driving activities. If an employee is caught with controlled drugs in their system while driving on company business, this could leave the employer open to prosecution
  • Company car insurance premiums are also likely to rise if staff are prosecuted
  • The HSE (with other bodies) have produced ‘Drug Misuse at Work’ guidance here, which gives details of how to spot the signs of drug misuse at work and how to deal with it
  • Employers may want to update their alcohol/substance/drug misuse policy and some employers may want to introduce a drug testing policy
  • All employers will need to update their driving policies and/or health and safety policies and Disciplinary Policies, to ensure that staff are aware of the new laws
  • Employers may want to have systems in place for drivers to report to the employer when a specified legal drug is prescribed to them (bearing in mind data protection laws) and ensure the employee carries their relevant prescription information with them when driving.