Drug Driving

Drug Driving

Key Facts:

  • Drug driving includes driving under the influence of both illicit and medicinal drugs. The current UK law defines ‘drug’ as ‘any intoxicant other than alcohol’. This includes illegal drugs such as cannabis but also prescribed medicines and over the counter remedies.

  • In Great Britain during 2015, the number of people estimated to have been killed in an accident involving the contributory factor ‘driver/rider impaired by drugs (illicit or medicinal)’ included 63 fatal accidents (4 per cent of all road accidents which involved a fatality), whilst the total number of casualties was 889 (1 per cent of all road casualties) (RRCGB, DfT, 2016).

  • The evidence associated with the prevalence of drug driving (riding) in the UK is weak. There have been few studies that have focused on drug driving (riding) in the UK and the majority of these are dated (Everest et al., 1989; Tunbridge et al., 2001; Elliot et al., 2009). Large European research programmes provide further details on the prevalence of drug driving and show that it is an important road safety issue (Klemenjak et al., 2005; Schulze et al., 2012).

  • The relative risk of a serious or fatal injury has been calculated for drug use. A slight risk for the use of a single drug (1 to 3 times higher than unimpaired driving) was found for cannabis and a medium risk (2 to 10 times higher) was found for cocaine and illegal opiates. For the use of medicines a medium risk was found (2 to 10 times higher). For multiple drug use drivers are at a 5 to 30 times higher risk of being involved in a severe or fatal traffic accident (Schulze et al., 2012).

  • The distribution of drug prevalence for illicit drugs is broadly similar across Europe for those involved in road accidents, with cannabis being the most common drug. Cocaine use has increased since the mid-1990s. There has also been recent interest in ‘legal highs’. The overall pattern of drug use suggested that the prevalence of drug driving has increased (Jackson & Hilditch, 2010).

  • Illicit drugs tend to be detected among young (under 35 years) male drivers, at all times of the day, but mainly at the weekend. The combined use of alcohol and drugs is most prevalent at night time among young (under 35 years old) male drivers. Multiple drug driving is most common in male drivers. Medicinal drugs are mainly detected in female drivers over 35 years old during daytime hours. This is the same for those involved in accidents impaired by medicinal drugs (Schulze et al., 2012).


  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:10 AM
  • Last Update: 26 Jan 2017, 04:06 PM