The new law also makes driving while over the prescribed limit of medicinal drugs such as morphine and methadone an offence.
The new drug-drive law carries a maximum prison sentence of six months, plus a £5,000 fine and an automatic 12-month driving ban.
Set to be administered in a similar way to drink-drive laws, the drug-drive law will see police use roadside drugalisers to show the drugs are present above the stated legal limit.
There will no longer be a need for the police to prove driving was impaired.
‘Zero tolerance is right’
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of safety group Brake, said: “We believe the government is doing the right thing by taking a zero tolerance approach; we hope this will make it clear that driving on any amount of drugs won’t be tolerated.
“Anyone tempted to drive on drugs should be in absolutely no doubt of the penalties they face for endangering people’s lives and that it simply isn’t worth the risk.”
Sarah Sillars, CEO of safety group the IAM, said: “The new law is a real step in the right direction for the eradication of driving under the influence of drugs.
“The IAM has always stated there should be no doubt to drivers and riders as to what the correct course of action should be; no-one should be driving while under the influence of alcohol or any illegal drugs in your system.
“We also urge drivers and riders not to forget how prescription drugs can affect your ability to control a vehicle. Don’t ignore the instructions and think you know better.”
Experts say there could be as many as 200 drug-driving related deaths each year on British roads – and surveys indicate 370,000 young male drivers have driven under the influence of class A drugs.
The Highway Code has been rewritten to factor in the new drug-drive rules – here’s the amendment in full:
New Highway Code rule 96 wording
You MUST NOT drive under the influence of drugs or medicine. For medicines, check with your doctor or pharmacist and do not drive if you are advised that you may be impaired.
You MUST NOT drive if you have illegal drugs or certain medicines in your blood above specified limits. It is highly dangerous so never take illegal drugs if you intend to drive; the effects are unpredictable, but can be even more severe than alcohol and result in fatal or serious road crashes. Illegal drugs have been specified at very low levels so even small amounts of use could be above the specified limits. The limits for certain medicines have been specified at higher levels, above the levels generally found in the blood of patients who have taken normal therapeutic doses. If you are found to have a concentration of a drug above its specified limit in your blood because you have been prescribed or legitimately supplied a particularly high dose of medicine, then you can raise a statutory medical defence, provided your driving was not impaired by the medicine you are taking.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 4 & Law RTA 1988 sect 5A