Driving drunk has always been a well-publicised problem. But last year regulations were introduced to crack down on motorists driving under the influence of drugs, and police were issued with drug testing kits to help them prove that drivers had just smoked a bunch of weed or had a little pick-me-up line after their solitary post-work pint, or whatever.
The result: obviously, more people getting arrested. It's now been revealed that, in the last year, more people were arrested in London for drug driving than anywhere else in England and Wales – by a long way. London's Met Police made 1,636 arrests for the offence from March of 2015 to April of this year. Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests showed that 7,796 people were held on suspicion of drug driving in the period. Data was supplied by 35 out of 43 police forces.
Much of this is to do with the number of people living and driving in London – that 1,636 figure is almost three times higher than in the second place city, Manchester, reflecting the capital's larger population. Also, no brainer: a lot of people in London do drugs. Yesterday, London was named the " cocaine capital" of Europe for the second year running.
Unlike alcohol, you can't get away with driving with even a trace of drugs in your system: there's a zero tolerance policy. Officers use mouth swabs to screen for coke and weed use at the roadside – a process that takes about eight minutes – and even if a driver passes the roadside check they can be taken to the police station, where a test for other drugs – such as ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin – can be conducted.
Athol Johnston, a professor of clinical pharmacology at Queen Mary University of London, was on the panel that advised the Department for Transport on drug driving limits. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Of the 17 drugs on the list, over half of them are actually sedatives, so they'll have a very similar action to alcohol: they'll make it more difficult for you to drive; you'll lack attention. Then you've got the stimulants – they'll really distract you from driving: you're not paying attention, you don't drive as well. Then you've got things like Ketamine and LSD, which, frankly, if you take those, you don't know what you're doing, because you're hallucinating. You may see things that aren't there and you won't be able to control your car properly."
Bottom line: taking drugs and driving is just as dumb and dangerous – if not more so – than drinking and driving.
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