THE GOVERNMENT PLANS to crack down on drug driving by creating a specific offence.
Drivers could face up to six months in jail under the proposed law, part of the Crime, Communications and Court Bill. Offenders would also be subject to fines of up to £5000 and driving bans of up to 12 months.
The new law would apply in England, Scotland and Wales.
The police would be given roadside drug screening devices, a number of which are undergoing analysis.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) estimates that as many as 1-in 10 young drivers have driven under the influence of cannabis. However, the IAM is urging the government to test a driver's level of impairment, not just whether they have taken drugs.
IAM chief executive, Simon Best, said: "Any new equipment that will allow police to make quick and accurate decisions at the roadside or at the police station on drivers who are impaired by drugs is great. In this was traffic officers can get back out onto the frontline of roads policing, where their impact is highest.
"But the introduction of a drugalyser type test needs to be backed up by some measure of impairment. Without this, the test could simply catch those people who have used drugs at some point, but are not necessarily impaired by them."
Road safety charity, Brake, has welcomed the proposed law. "This is an incredibly important step forwards in tackling drug driving which Brake welcomes wholeheartedly," said Brake's senior campaigns officer, Ellen Booth. "Creating a new offence as well as approving roadside drug screening devices by the end of 2012 will make an enormous difference in preventing drug driving crashes."
Brake differs from IAM on measuring impairment as well as the presence of drugs. "Given international evidence, Brake recommends a zero-tolerance law that makes it an offence to drive on any amount of illegal drugs," said Booth. "It should be a simple message."