To drive safely we need to be physically and mentally alert. Even a small amount of alcohol affects driving ability. Drugs too, both illicit and medicinal, can impair driving skills, and according to the latest research, fatigue may be the principal factor in around 10% of all collisions.
There is now a much greater chance that drink-drivers will be caught, since breath testing methods have advanced dramatically over recent years.
Statistics show that drinking and driving has decreased since the 1980's but despite the reduction, one in seven road deaths is a result of a drink-drive related collision.
If you are stopped by the police, on suspicion of committing any offence, it is likely that you will be required to provide a breath test. If the test is positive (you have more than the legal amount of alcohol in your sample), or you refuse, you will be arrested and taken to the police station.
There is no cause for complacency. Drinking and driving kills. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair your driving enough to cause an accident that otherwise may not happen. If caught and convicted you will lose your license.
The most sensible course of action if you are going to have a drink, is to leave the car at home. Get a taxi, public transport, walk or get a lift from a sober friend. Don’t take the risk.
Driving whilst impaired by drugs is a serious offence with penalties similar to those for drink-driving. The law does not make a distinction between illegal or misused drugs and over-the-counter or prescription drugs taken as directed by a medical practitioner.
Drivers can be convicted if there is evidence that
- Their driving was impaired; and
- The impairment was due to drugs.
Cannabis is by far the most common illegal substance found to be the cause of driver impairment. However, because traces of the drug can remain in the body for up to four weeks (long after it has ceased to have any effect), many cannabis users therefore believe that it is very difficult for the police to prove guilt.
The majority of SYP’s Roads Policing Group officers though have been trained in Field Impairment Testing (FIT) which includes a series of practical tests to determine if a driver’s motor-skills and reaction times have been impaired. Any other SYP officer suspecting a driver of drug-driving has the option to request a FIT-trained officer to attend the scene and perform roadside field impairment tests on suspects prior to an arrest.
In addition to field impairment testing, devices are being developed which will be able to detect the presence of detect a number of drugs, both illicit and prescribed..
In the UK, all over-the-counter and prescription medicines have an authorised Patient Information Leaflet explaining how the medicine acts, how it should be used and any side effects that might be experienced, including any influence on the ability to drive.
Most people know that it is not safe to drive when they are tired, but too often they carry on instead of taking a break. It is because of this that fatigue causes as many as 10% of all collisions.
Fatigue can affect any driver but those most at risk are people driving as part of their job. Research has found that people driving company cars fall asleep at the wheel more often.
People who drive occasionally at night are more likely to have problems than those who work a regular night shift and whose body clocks adjust.
The most consistent efforts to tackle driver fatigue have been by regulating the working hours of HGV drivers and bus and coach drivers, and setting minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods. European Laws and tachographs have helped control driving time.
If drivers are more aware of their limitations and accepted the need for rest, most fatigue related collisions could be avoided. We need to counteract the belief that tiredness is something beyond the driver’s control.
The Highway Code advises drivers who realise they are becoming overtired to take a break, a nap and two cups of strong coffee.
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