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Is drug driving becoming a big problem? Offences in England and Wales increased by a fifth last year

by Rob Hull For , posted 21 05 2020

Government figures show

  • Drug driving prosecutions rose from 9,687 in 2018 to 11,614 last year
  • Ministry of Justice figures show 'other offences related to drink- or drug-driving' also increased by 12% in 2019
  • The AA has warned that the issue could reach endemic levels in Britain
  • Essex Police reported the highest number of drug-driving arrests in a single month during April, with 266 in total despite most people being in lockdown 

 Drug driving is becoming an increasing problem in Britain, new statistics released by the Government suggest. 

Last year, there was a 20 per cent increase in the number of prosecutions for driving while over the limit for specified controlled drug in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice says.

More than a third of people in England and Wales have admitted to using narcotics on a regular basis a recent Home Office survey revealed and the AA says more need to be done before the drug driving becomes 'endemic.'

'Endemic': Concerns are growing for the number of motorists on the road under the influence of drugs as prosecutions for driving under the influence grew by a fifth last year

Drug driving prosecutions rose from 9,687 in 2018 to 11,614 last year, the MoJ data shows.

'Other offences related to drink- or drug-driving' also increased by 10 per cent, from to 9,541 in 2019, with 'vehicle test offences' also up 10 per cent to 4,036 for the entirety of last year.

Edmund King, AA president, said we should 'all be concerned' about the number of drug drivers on our roads and the rising number of convictions.

'Drug Driving, like drink driving, is never conducive to road safety,' he said.

'Police forces are rightly testing drivers where they see that driving ability is impaired, and some have seen a record number of arrests recently. 

'But we need to get to the root cause of the problem and stop this before it becomes endemic.'

Despite most drivers being in lockdown in April, Essex Police said it recorded the highest number of people arrested on suspicion of drug driving last month.

The Essex force made 266 drug driving arrests during the month - the previous highest was 184 in November 2019.

Adam Pipe, head of roads policing at the constabulary, said: 'While the vast majority of people in Essex have been doing the right thing and staying at home, my officers have continued to be out across the county keeping the roads safe.

'There are fewer vehicles on the roads and calls to some types of crimes have reduced but officers have continued to work proactively to identify drug drivers.

'This figure also gives an indication as to the scale of drug driving in Essex.

'You could test positive for drugs in your system days after you last had them and with more than 500 officers trained to use drug wipes, you're really likely to get caught.

'That could mean you could lose your licence, you job, your home and even kill yourself or someone else. Is the high worth the low?'

A survey by the Home Office in 2019 of 16 to 59-year-old residents in households in England and Wales found that 36 per cent regularly take drugs.

'While more than a third of people admit they take recreational drugs like cannabis on a regular basis, they could be unaware of the consequences drug driving can have,' Edmund King warned.

'More action is needed to improve driver education and to stop the supply of illegal drugs,' he added.

The MoJ's figures revealed a 3 per cent increase in the number of people found guilty of drink-driving, rising from 33,634 in 2018 to 34,713 in 2019.

Dangerous driving offences were also up by 4 per cent  to 3,789 and while the number of drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving rose 11 per cent from 157 to 174 cases.

In more positive news, recorded prosecutions for careless driving increased by just half a per cent over the 12 months, while the number of people found guilty of using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel fell by a fifth from 11,901 to 9,391.

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