Drug driving overtakes drink driving as prosecutions double in two years

Mr Shapps said: “Drink driving is now rightly seen as a social taboo by most of us in this country and we have worked hard to drive down drink-drive-related deaths. But if we are to make our roads safer still, there is no room to be lax on drug driving, which is why I have launched this call for evidence today.

“It’s only right that drug drivers must undergo rehabilitation before getting back behind the wheel, helping protect the public from this hidden problem and stamping out drug driving for good.”

Merseyside Police, one of the UK’s largest forces, has already been prosecuting more drug drivers than drink drivers. It recorded 108 drug convictions for every 100 drink offences.

It was one of six forces with more than 0.5 drug-driving convictions per 1,000 of its population, including Dorset Police, North Wales Police, Cleveland Police, Norfolk Constabulary and Suffolk Constabulary.

This is nearly 10 times the rate of the lowest prosecuting force, West Midlands Police, according to research by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts).

Drink-drive-related deaths and injuries are now rare on UK roads, with fatalities having fallen 88 per cent between 1979 and 2015, to just over 200. However, the number of those seriously injured in drug-driving collisions has risen from 499 to 713.

Drug drivers ‘mor likely to reoffend’ 

Drug drivers are also six times as likely as drink drivers to be repeat offenders. Of the 78,062 drug driving offences committed since 2010, 34,178 or 44 per cent were not first-timers. That compared with seven per cent for drink drivers.

Nicholas Lyes, the head of roads policy at the RAC, said: “Evidence shows offering drug-driving offenders rehabilitation courses helps to reduce reoffending and improves road safety.”

Pacts warned that forces are being deterred from enforcing the law by the £16 cost of drug testing kits, which the police have to fund, unlike most other countries where their governments pick up the bill.

There were also delays of up to five months in police getting test results back from laboratories, which cost between £60 and £400. This meant that drug drivers could continue driving before any sanction could be taken either by police or a court.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said the delays and lack of testing meant that drug drivers “are being tolerated and allowed to present a continuing threat to communities”.

Pacts proposed that police forces should use their powers to revoke the licences of persistent and dangerous offenders to prevent them driving from the time of the alleged offence until their trial, which could be as long as a year with both test and court backlogs.

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