Drugs and Driving

The Transport Research Laboratory published studies in 1993 and produced a
follow-up study in 2001 that found that, over a period of nearly ten years, there had been a steep rise in the number of drivers killed in road accidents with drugs in their system. The results from 1,184 cases in the 2001 study show that illicit drug taking (mainly cannabis) had increased by a factor of six since the earlier study. At least one medicinal or illicit drug was detected in 24 percent of the casualties – in other words, nearly one in four drivers. Illicit drugs were significantly more prevalent.

The University of Glasgow conducted research in 2001 and 2002, as part of the
European project ‘Impaired Motorists, Methods of Roadside Testing and
Assessment for Licensing’ (IMMORTAL), and was required to analyse 1,396 oral
fluid samples collected from drivers for a wide range of drugs. The study group
included drivers who were stopped at random and participation was entirely
voluntary. The results showed that out of the 1,396 samples tested, 16.8% were
positive for at least one drug. This study demonstrated that a significant number of the driving population is positive for at least one drug.

Research from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health presented at the
European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL)’s conference in Harrogate in October
2008 comprised a representative selection of 10,835 drivers who were tested for drugs and alcohol. TISPOL estimated that if the results from that study were
applied to the UK, the number of journeys taken by drivers unfit to drive because of drugs would be equivalent to around one million car journeys.

In Australia’s State of Victoria, data collected from more than 70,000 roadside drug tests indicated a clear trend. Over a four-year period of roadside testing and educational drug-driving campaigns, drug driving in the State has decreased by almost 50 percent from one driver in 44 (2004 figures) to one driver in 76 (2008 figures).

Similar studies from other countries, including Italy, which has been conducting
roadside testing since a change in legislation in 2002, show that the availability of a greater depth of evidentiary data supports the revision and implementation of
related legislation and strategies to reduce the risks of drug driving in these

Australian Roadside Case Study
Concateno has been working with the Australian police since 2004 to introduce random roadside testing. The State of Victoria, which is at the forefront of road safety initiatives, was the first in the world to effect a change in legislation and allow random testing, other Australian states have subsequently followed, including Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

Since the introduction of this testing regime, a clear trend can be seen, with a reduction in the numbers of drivers that were confirmed as positive. In 2004 it was 1:445, whereas by the end of 2008 it has dropped to 1:76. This means that fewer drivers are driving while taking drugs, indicating that a regime such as the one adopted by Australia is effective in reducing drug driving and contributing to safer roads. Most recently, on July 14 2009, Australia’s Transport Accident Commission announced a new campaign targeting those who drive while under the influence of cannabis

Source: July 14, 2009 Response from Concateno plc to ‘A Safer Way’ Consultation, Department for Transport

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