Young Motorists Expect To Drive Under The Influence Of Drugs This Christmas

Drug Driving

Drug Driving

Thousands of young drivers will risk injuries and even death this Christmas by getting behind the wheel after taking illegal drugs, according to new research. Almost a third of 17-24 year-olds surveyed admitted to taking illegal drugs within the last year and nearly 100,000 could drive after taking illegal drugs during the festive period.

In the survey carried out for Green Flag of drivers aged between 17 and 24 years, almost a third know someone who takes illegal drugs and drives regularly.

One-in-ten also said they were likely to take illegal drugs over the festive period and more than half said someone they knew would take illegal drugs. Worryingly, almost a third had been a passenger in a car when they knew the driver had taken illegal drugs.

Despite legal drugs such as tranquillizers and anti-depressants having the potential to affect the ability to drive for a number of hours, 15 per cent said they would drive within just three hours of taking them.

Almost one-in-five people killed in road crashes had traces of illegal drugs in their blood, with cannabis being the most common.

Driving whilst under the influence of drugs - legal or illegal - is just as dangerous as driving when drunk. The affects of drugs include slow reaction times, poor concentration, sleepiness or fatigue, confused thinking, distorted perception, over confidence, impaired co-ordination, erratic behaviour and blurred vision.

Philippa Naylor, spokesperson for Green Flag, said: "Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be the same stigma associated with drug driving as there is with drink driving, but it's crucial that people realise just how dangerous it is. Even the morning after a night out, drugs can still be in the body's system and the consequences of impaired driving can be severe. Not only could drivers lose their licence but they risk causing an accident, injuring themselves or someone else."

Drug driving carries the same penalty as drink driving. Drivers prosecuted could face a minimum one-year driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000 and six months in jail.

If alcohol has been discounted as a reason for impairment then police can check drivers for drugs using a number of techniques. This can be done by checking the driver's pupil dilation and asking them to place a finger on their nose or walk in a straight line to test co-ordination.

Police also administer the Romburg Test to measure the driver's internal body clock. This test works by asking drivers to shut their eyes and count to 30. If they have taken stimulants, their body clock speeds up and slows down if opiates have been consumed.

In November, Britain was named the cocaine capital of Europe as use among 15 to 24-year-olds has quadrupled over the past four years. In the report by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drugs Addiction, use among adults in England and Wales has almost tripled over the past decade.

20 December 2006 Staff

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