A new television campaign will begin tonight to highlight the risks involved with drug driving after concerns are rising over young people who are driving after taking illegal drugs.
The adverts, which cost £2.3 million to make, advise drivers that police officers can detect signs of drug taking if they are pulled over for another traffic offence or accident.
The first screening will be tonight before Coronation Street, and will see a youngster with big eyeballs revealing the telling signs of dilated pupils during drug taking.
The Government are fully backing the campaign after a report by the Department for Transport (DfT) Think! road safety campaign revealed that as many as one in ten young men get behind the wheel after experimenting with illegal drugs. The research also highlighted the fact that one in five drivers killed in car accidents could have been under the influence of illegal drugs.
The Transport Secretary Lord Adonis admitted it was time to make drivers aware of the comparable dangers of drug-driving after significant and successful drink-driving campaigns.
“Some drivers who would never get behind the wheel after drinking still believe they can drive after taking drugs. We are determined to get the message through to this reckless minority that their behaviour is putting lives in danger,” Lord Adonis said.
There are as yet no exact statistics to show how many people in England and Wales are drug driving. what is available are the combined figures of drinks and drug related traffic incidents. In Scotland in 2006 it was recorded that 7 per cent of 11,000 impaired driving offenses were drug related. If the figures were similar in England and Wales, then 7,100 out of 101,400 incidents would be drug related.
The Think! campaign team indicated that the majority of drivers at the wheel under the influence of illegal drugs would be men aged between 25 and 35.
The related dangers are vast - with cannabis the user could feel sleepy and have distorted perceptions with a decrease in concentration, while cocaine could make the driver feel overconfident and cause them to take more risks, while ecstasy also distorts perception and increased risk taking.
The repercussions of drink or drug driving include a minimum one year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000 or as much as six months in prison. There can sometimes be difficulty with pursuing a drug only driving offense as it can be difficult to prove the drug was the person’s system as well as by how much they were impaired by it.
Currently the Home Office are trying to replicate a similar device to the breathalyser for roadside drug screening. Ministers are also seeking plans to change the law whereby police can arrest any motorist proved to have taken illegal drugs. However this could mean that motorists whose driving was not impaired could be prosecuted, as drugs can stay in the system for weeks.