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How drugs can contribute to car accidents

There are many both legal and illegal drugs that can affect your ability to drive. A drug is defined as any chemical that affects the way your body functions, it can be anything from alcohol to aspirin either of which could impair your ability to drive if taken in sufficient quantities.

Types of drugs

Alcohol is probably the most well known drug for contributing to accidents on our roads, but there are many others that can significantly impair your ability to drive. Many others that despite being taken legitimately for medical reasons can have effects which may not be immediately obvious. Drugs can be broken down into the following categories:-

  • Stimulants. These make you feel more alert and include things such as caffeine and nicotine. Drugs such as caffeine will not affect your ability to drive when taken in small quantities, but can make you irritable and stressed if taken in excessive amounts. This could in turn make your driving more aggressive and make you less patient and more likely to take risks. So called 'energy' drinks have become very popular these days for combating tiredness, but their effects are fairly short term and should not be used regularly as an alternative to a proper nights rest

  • Sedatives calm you down and cause drowsiness. These can be particularly dangerous as they can reduce your alertness and ability to make sound decisions. You should never use any type of vehicle on the road when under the influence of a sedative

  • Other medications. Other prescribed or non-prescribed medications such as pain killers and other medicinal drugs can also make you drowsy in some circumstances and should be used with care if you intend to drive. You should always read the information on the packaging concerning possible side effects of any medication before deciding whether to drive

  • Mind-altering drugs. These can have either extreme sedating or stimulant side effects in addition to affecting your ability think clearly and rationally. Driving under the influence of a substance such as cannabis is extremely dangerous and possession of illegal drugs is of course an offence, with severe penalties for possession or intent to supply

Drugs, driving and the law

Driving under the influence of drugs is a serious offence and carries the same penalties as drink driving. This means that you could face a minimum one-year driving ban and a fine of up to 5000 or up to six months in prison. Don't forget that this can apply to any drug that affects your ability to drive safely, not just the illegal ones.

How do the police determine that you are unfit to drive?

Traffic police officers are trained to spot drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If someone is spotted driving in an erratic manner or has clearly ignored a road restriction sign then they are likely to be stopped.

It will usually become clear after a brief conversation with the individual whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If anything arouses suspicion then they may be asked to take a breath test or perform what is known as a Field Impairment Test to ascertain the degree of impairment.

A driver may also be asked to take part in a Field Impairment Test if they are involved in an accident and the circumstances arouse suspicion.

If a police officer decides at the road side that the individual is unfit to drive they will be arrested and taken to the police station. At the police station they may be asked to provide a blood or urine sample to be tested for the presence of various substances.

It is an offence to refuse to participate in any of the tests that you may be asked to do, whether they take place at the roadside or at the police station.

If you have been involved in a car accident and would like further advice, please give us a call us on 0845 6768898 or complete our online claim form and one of our experienced advisors will be happy to help.

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