Drug driving laws: what you need to know


4 January 2024

By James Compton

In recent times, law enforcement’s attention has sharply shifted towards combating ‘drug driving,’ placing increased scrutiny on individuals.

There are two laws that relate to drug driving; driving whilst unfit through drugs; and driving with excess (over the specified legal limit) drugs. Unlike drink driving, drug driving limits are far harder to interpret, making them easier to inadvertently exceed. There are many different drugs which can impair driving, each with different legal limits.

Whether the substances involved are legal or illegal, and regardless of any lack of intent to exceed the limit, individuals can still find themselves facing guilt in the eyes of the law.

Drug driving offences and enforcement:

It is now an offence to operate a vehicle with a concentration of specific controlled substances exceeding prescribed limits. This change aligns drug driving enforcement with that of drink driving. Since 2015, the government has empowered police to conduct roadside assessments for drug consumption, akin to breathalyser tests for alcohol. Officers can test for various drugs on the spot, and if suspected of consuming substances beyond the prescribed limits, further tests like blood or urine samples may be required. Notably, drug traces can linger in the system for days or even weeks, underscoring the need for awareness among those who have recently taken substances.

Unfit to drive:

Officers can make an arrest if they believe your driving is impaired for any reason, particularly if they suspect drug or substance involvement. This includes not only prohibited drugs like cannabis and cocaine but also over-the-counter drugs and common prescription medicines. Remaining diligent about your consumption and understanding how it may affect your driving is crucial in avoiding legal complications.

Challenge the charge with the right legal advice

If you find yourself under investigation or charged with a driving offence, seeking legal advice becomes vital. A strong defence can be crafted, considering factors that may influence the resulting sentence, especially in the case of a drug driving prosecution. Legal guidance ensures that you navigate the complexities of the legal system effectively.