Driver Knowledge Tests

UK government sets limits for driving while under the influence of drugs

Australia already has quite strict laws on driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In New South Wales it is illegal to drive a car, motorbike or heavy vehicle while under the influence of drugs, and this also includes some over-the-counter and prescribed medications that can affect your reaction time and judgement.

Australian laws

For the first offence, the maximum fine is $2200 , 9 months in prison and 12 months’ disqualification. For the second and subsequent offences, these become more severe. If you are an employer who encourages drivers to take drugs (for example, a transport company might turn a blind eye to its drivers using certain stimulant drugs to stay awake, or actively promote those drugs to its drivers), the fine is up to $550,000 for the first offence and $825,000 for the second and subsequent offence.

We have fairly strict laws relating to alcohol and drugs already. Roads and Maritime sets out fines and disqualification periods for active THC (cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed/ice), methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy), morphine (unless proven for medical use) and cocaine. These range from $1100 – $3300, a 12-month prison term and up to unlimited disqualification depending on the offence. Refusing to supply a sample to be tested for drugs can attract up to a $5500 fine and up to a two-year jail term, depending on the type of offence. The full schedule is here.

New UK laws

If you are heading to the UK then you need to be aware that they will have a more extensive list of substances as of their autumn (around September). In 2013 the UK government announced a new offence of driving with a specific controlled drug in the body above the specified limit for that drug would be introduced. With consultation, those limits have been set, although not all limits have been made public yet.

Some will have a zero limit such as cocaine and LSD, while others will have nominal limits if it is possible that over-the-counter medication could leave traces of these drugs in a patient’s system, for example certain types of amphetamine used in ADHD medicine.

So, the best option if you are going on holiday or on a more extended trip to the UK is to never drive with drugs in your system, and that applies in Australia, too.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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