UK Panel: Draw Blood Sample After Every Road Accident

The British government's transport minister, Stephen Hammond, announced a new, strict liability offense of driving with a specified controlled drug in the body is being introduced. The list of drugs to be included has not yet been finalized.

An expert advisory panel to Britain's Department of Transport has recommended that law enforcement officers take a driver's blood sample after every road accident. The panel's "Driving Under the Influence of Drugs" report weighs in at 205 pages and says there is some evidence drugged driving may contribute to 200 road deaths in Britain annually.

Appointed last year, the panelists are academic and health care industry experts. Their report said the panel considered controlled drugs, over-the-counter medicines, psychoactive drugs, prescription medicines, and illegal drugs. There has been "a considerable increase in poly-drug use by drivers and the road safety risk associated with driving after consuming drugs and alcohol at one time is extremely high," the report states. "Based on this evidence, the Panel is also recommending that a lower limit should be set for certain drugs where they are found in combination with alcohol, as this combination leads to much greater accident risk when driving than a low concentration of the drug on its own." The report then lists recommended threshold limits in blood and where more than 20 mg alcohol is also present in 100 ml of the driver’s blood for THC, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, ketamine, morphine, methadone, and the hypnotic drugs diazepam, oxazepam, flunitrazepam, clonazepam, lorazepam, and temazepam.

The British government's parliamentary under secretary of state for transport, Stephen Hammond, welcomed the report and announced March 7 that a new, strict liability offense of driving with a specified controlled drug in the body is being introduced. He noted the list of drugs to be included in the offense has not yet been finalized, and the government will propose them later this year and take public comments on the list.

"Drug driving is a menace on our roads with an estimated 200 drug driving-related deaths a year in Great Britain," Hammond wrote. "The government has a zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use and it is important that we send the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive. In order to tackle this threat to safety on our roads, the government is introducing a new offence of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified controlled drug in the body. The new offence is included in the Crime and Courts Bill, currently before Parliament. It will enable more effective law enforcement and help to keep our roads safe.

"The government will carefully consider the panel's recommendations," he continued. "In doing so, we are clear that the design of the new offence must send the strongest possible message that you cannot take any amount of illegal drugs and drive. At the same time the government must consider the position of those who legitimately and safely use medicines which may contain controlled drugs. We recognise that for the purposes of drug testing, distinguishing between those drugs which do have medical uses and those which do not is complex. We must ensure that the new offence would not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in line with medical advice."

Hammond has responsibility for road safety and also maritime and dangerous goods.

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