January 18, 2018

Company Drivers At Risk From Over The Counter Remedies

Drug Driving Laws

Company drivers could be unwittingly putting themselves in danger of prosecution by taking over-the-counter remedies that are on a Government prohibited substance list

In 2016, following the introduction of new screening equipment and roadside tests by the police, there was a seven-fold increase in the UK in the number of drivers being convicted for drug-driving.

What does the law say?

The law, which was first introduced in 2015, makes it illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body– eight illegal drugs and nine prescription drugs – above specified limits.

If caught, drivers face losing their licence for at least a year, being fined up to £5,000 or a spell in prison.

However, some of the banned drugs are found in every day remedies for colds and flu or in anti-depressants. These include common every-day painkillers such as codeine, co-codamol and tramadol.

As a result, company drivers could inadvertently be putting themselves at risk of prosecution without fully realising the consequences of what they were taking.

What are the drugs involved?

The Government website https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law shows nine prescription drugs, some of which are available over the counter:

  • amphetamine
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, such as codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

Government advice is that you should talk to your doctor about whether you are fit enough to drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the above drugs.

Drivers could be prosecuted if they drive with certain levels of these drugs in their body. The limits are shown here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/drug-driving#table-of-drugs-and-limits)

How big is the problem?

Convictions have risen from four drivers a day in 2015 to 27 a day in 2016, according to a new report from the Department for Transport (DfT).

This revealed that there were almost 10,000 convictions last year for offences that included being in charge of, attempting to drive, or causing death after exceeding the legal drug limit.

Police forces now have access to improved screening equipment to test suspected drug drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside.

Furthermore, they are able to test for other drugs such as ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station with a blood test, even if a driver passes the roadside check.

Is it a problem at work?

According to a 2015 survey of employers in a range of different sectors, almost a third of employees admitted using drugs at work, with a significant number of them claiming to be ‘under the influence’ every working day.

CLM’s advice is to ensure that drug driving is covered under company policy because, although there is still no legal requirement for a company to adopt a drug or alcohol testing policy, there is an obligation to maintain a safe working environment as part of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Employers should always communicate clearly and engage with employees before introducing any new drug related policies, and should encourage staff to declare any medical or dependency issues that could potentially affect their ability to drive unimpaired.

“A company could be liable if its employees cause death or serious injury while driving in an impaired state due to drug use, inadvertent or witting, so steps should be taken to ensure a robust policy is in place,” said CLM managing director, John Lawrence.