UK introduces Drugalysers

New regulations aimed at making UK’s roads even safer have come into force with zero-tolerance drugdriving laws being introduced throughout most of the country. The British government is set to progressively introduce the first roadside-capable drug-detecting drugalysers over the next few years to combat the increasing menace of drugdriving, which is thought to play a part in at least half of all road deaths in the UK.

Road safety experts fear that the young motorist, who may well regard drunk driving as unacceptable, has a more cavalier attitude to driving whilst under the influence of Cannabis, Ecstasy, Cocaine, LSD, Amphetamine or Ketamine. The same experts are quick to point out that the effects of one marijuana ‘joint’ is equivalent to drinking five pints of beer – a fact that seems to be lost on many of today’s youngsters – and that any form of drug impairs the ability of the driver to react appropriately.

Like many governments around the world that have witnessed the inexorable rise of recreational drug use, the British Government has been wrestling with how to combat the problem of driving under the influence and the mayhem on the roads caused by it. Until now there has been no reliable tool that is like the alcohol-detecting breathalyzer and enforcers have had to rely on field sobriety tests, which of course are not very scientific. That will all change now with the announcement that a new reliable device made by Cozart Bioscience from the UK, costing a mere US$3000, has been adopted by the British Police.

Whilst the obvious point of the drug test is to stop drivers who are loaded on recreational drugs, the drugalyser will detect 16 different drugs, some of which are prescription drugs; for instance, Clonazepam, which is used to treat epilepsy, and Oxazepam, which treats anxiety, and also widely abused drugs like Morphine and Methadone. The authorities suggest that if you are taking a medication that is on the list, then it would be advisable to carry some evidence that you have been prescribed the drug as medication.

The drug screening will be conducted in the first instance at the roadside via an oral swab test that tests for chemical compounds in the saliva. If the motorist fails this, he will then have to submit himself for a blood or urine test at a local hospital – a negative result here will result in prosecution with a fine of US$7500 or six months in prison and an instant 12-month driving ban for the first offence. The penalties are in line with the drink driving laws and are said to punish people for driving whilst impaired and not necessarily for taking the drugs in the first place, which unless we have missed a major piece of news, is also illegal in the UK.

So, the big question is, if you take drugs – and there are many people out there all around the world who do – how long before it is safe for you to drive? Well, there seems to be no easy answer to this nor is there any official advice. The UK Government website rather flippantly states: “Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving skills in a number of ways…Driving under any of these conditions is a bad idea” which is obvious but not very useful, although they are running a series of adverts designed to strike fear into the young drugdriver.

David Taylor, Professor of Psychopharmacology at King’s College, London, speaking in an interview on BBC’s Radio 4 said that it is a zero-tolerance approach and that any exposure to drugs will render people over the limit for up to 36 hours. So if you live in the UK and like to ‘party’ on the weekend, perhaps it is time to get acquainted with a taxi service like Uber and avoid a custodial sentence.

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