As the MASS Regional Co-ordinator for Scotland, I am proud that Scotland already has one of the strictest drink driving laws in the UK. Last month the Scottish Government added to the initiatives to make Scotland’s roads safer still by introducing strict almost-zero tolerance laws regarding those driving under the influence of drugs. A high profile campaign was launched by the Scottish Executive in conjunction with Police Scotland to coincide with the law change.
The problems associated with the use of drugs cause misery throughout our society and the new law tackles an aspect of this with zero tolerance of the following drugs: benzoylecgonine; cocaine; delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis and cannabinol); ketamine; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); methylamphetamine; methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy) and 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and diamorphine) whilst driving.
It is hoped that this new law will deter those thinking about getting behind the wheel whilst they are under the influence of drugs and for those that do so, the Procurator Fiscal will no longer have to prove that their driving was impaired by drug use – it will be sufficient that drugs have been detected in their system for an offence to have been committed.
Alongside this new law, Police Scotland are looking to improve detection rates. They have unveiled new roadside detection kits which will take a mouth swab from the driver’s mouth to detect if they are under the influence of cannabis or cocaine. The police will still use blood samples to test for other drugs.
Police Scotland hope that the new legislation and the ability to easily detect those driving under the influence of drugs will improve the number of drivers picked up for this offence however they ultimately hope to deter those thinking of committing this crime.
At present, around 200 drivers are caught each year for driving under the influence of drugs. When equivalent legislation was introduced in England and Wales, 8000 drivers were caught driving under the influence of drugs according to police statistics.
The new law also affects those who take prescribed medication and does allow a medical defence if the driver can prove the drug has been taken in line with a prescription.
Every day my colleagues will see the devastating effects of those innocent parties caught up in the selfish actions of drivers driving under the influence of drugs.
For example, I have been involved in a number of cases where those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol have mounted kerbs striking innocent pedestrians. The consequences for pedestrians are potentially devastating where often the driver himself, protected by his car, comes off lightly.
I welcome these changes and hope they deter motorists getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs and lead to safer roads in Scotland.
Brian Castle, author of ‘New drug driving initiative in Scotland’ a Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors and MASS Regional Co-ordinator for Scotland