More tests and level enforcement needed across the UK to tackle drug-driving

A panel of key stakeholders at the Federation’s virtual Roads Policing Conference agreed that a different approach must be taken to tackle drug-driving more effectively and efficiently.

The CPD-approved session “Safer roads – drug driving”, featured input from forensic toxicologist Dr Simon Elliott, David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, Professor Max Cameron from Monash University Accident Research Centre, Australia, Professor Kim Wolff from King’s College, London, and David Snelling, policy team Leader at the Department for Transport (DfT).

David opened the session by highlighting some key road safety issues, stating that nearly half of drug-drive offences are by people reoffending.

He continued: “We may be catching people but we’re not preventing them from reoffending. We want enforcement to be levelled up across the UK.”

David explained that drug-related fatalities have increased over time, but added: “There are about 250 drink-drive casualties every year – what we don’t know yet is the same for drugs.

“It is still an issue to know just how much the incidents of drug-driving are growing. We still don’t have a good indication just how much impact this is having on death and injury. It’s certainly worrying.

“What we are lacking is data from the number of roadside tests. There appear to be forces which are not doing the same levels of enforcement, and we would encourage a levelling up.”

Professor Wolff, who is investigating synthetic oral fluid for evidential drug-driving offences, said she was very interested in alternative matrices for evidential testing in different populations.

She continued, echoing David’s comments surrounding reoffending, adding: “Repeat offenders seem to be a big concern.”

Prof Wolff also added that she believes there should be a similar high-risk offender scheme for those who drug-drive, as those who drink-drive – something she is working very closely with the DfT on.

Dr Elliott explained how legislation changes in the last six years have seen “a sea change in how forensic toxicology has been used within policing”.

He added: “This is to the extent that 80 per cent of all forensic toxicology requests are in relation to roads policing, and that includes drugs and alcohol.

“Of this, 80 per cent of all of submissions are specifically related to drugs. Nearly three quarters of all cases where drugs are detected involve cannabis or cocaine.

“If you put that into context, our entire forensic toxicology system is really dealing with two drugs – cannabis and cocaine.

Find out more about the conference.