On 2nd March 2015 new legislation comes into effect in England and Wales that will make it illegal to drive whilst under the influence of a wider range of substances than at present.
The new ‘drug-driving’ law will encompass both illegal drugs and some prescription medicines. Anyone found to be driving whilst over the limit will face a mandatory disqualification and the possibility of up to six months imprisonment.
The limits for prescribed medication are higher than the limits for controlled substances, and a driver would have to exceed their prescribed dosage of medication in order to exceed the legal limit. This means that the majority of people should remain unaffected.
The Government reports that drivers under the influence of drugs have been responsible for as many as 200 deaths a year, but under existing legislation proving that a person is drug-driving is costly and time-consuming. Subsequently, at present a conviction of drug-driving is almost 50 times less likely than a conviction for drink-driving.
The prescription drugs covered by the new law are:
- Clonazepam: Prescribed to treat seizures
- Diazepam: Prescribed for anxiety disorders
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol): A sedative
- Lorazepam: Prescribed to treat convulsions or seizures
- Oxazepam: Prescribed to treat anxiety
- Temazepam: Prescribed to treat insomnia
- Methadone: Prescribed for pain relief
- Morphine: Prescribed to treat moderate and severe pain
If your employees drive as part of their duties then you may be affected by the new law. We recommend updating your company policy to reflect the new legislation and making reference to the list of included substances, before getting your employees to sign a declaration which states that they have read and understood the policy.
Whilst a signed declaration will cover you from liability for any accidents that might happen, it is still your responsibility as an employer to make sure that your employees are fit to drive if their job requires it. We recommend that you maintain open and honest communication with your employees, and encourage them to tell you if they are taking medication that may affect their work in any way.