Drug drive law ‘snubbed’

New drug driving laws will not be routinely used in Lancashire.
New drug driving laws will not be routinely used in Lancashire.

A new drug driving law that means motorists who take prescription medication could be “over the limit” will not be routinely used by police in Lancashire.

From today, officers will be able to make use of new legislation that sets limits for eight illegal drugs – including cocaine and cannabis –as well as eight prescription medications.

But the controversial new law, which will not be used by one force amid concerns it will not stand up to scrutiny in court, has met with a lukewarm response in Lancashire.

After Greater Manchester Police announced last week it will not be making use of the new powers, The Gazette can reveal Lancashire Police will continue to use existing laws as its main weapon against intoxicated drivers.

The new law, which has been welcomed by the AA, has come under fire amid fears motorists who use prescription drugs could be criminalised.

However, road safety minister Robert Goodwill said: “If you are taking your medicine as directed and your driving is not impaired, then you are not breaking the law and there is no need to worry.”

And although the Government insists the law will hold up in court, GMP bosses said they will not use it until they are sure it can “properly withstand legal scrutiny” – for fear of wasting public money.

Under the new rules, officers will be kitted out with new equipment to check for specific drugs in the drivers’ system.

Anyone caught exceeding the new limits faces a minimum one-year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, up to a year in prison and a criminal record.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We are aware of the new legislation and we welcome it as a new tool in our continuing efforts to target those people who get behind the wheel when not fit to drive through drink or drugs.

“Having said that, the existing legislation already covers those who are impaired in their driving regardless of the substance so that is likely to remain our primary tool for enforcement.”

The prescription drugs covered by the law are: clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, methadone, morphine or opiate-based drugs, oxazepam and temazepam.