Legal advice from Gary Heaven, a partner and head of criminal law at FDR law in Palmyra Square, Warrington
New drug driving laws and prescription medication
Q: I have to take prescription pain killers for a chronic medical condition. I’ve been told I might have to stop using my car because of changes to the drug driving laws. Is this correct?
A: Let me reassure you - the new legislation has NOT been designed to penalise people taking prescription medicine. The Department for Transport has publicly stated that people using drugs on the advice of a healthcare professional will be able to drive without fear of being prosecuted – as long as their driving is not impaired.
The changes to the existing law came into effect at the beginning of March. It is now illegal to drive with certain levels of some drugs in your body. The list includes eight illegal and eight prescription drugs.
Although a zero tolerance approach has been adopted for anyone who drives after using illegal drugs, the same is not true for people using medicine prescribed by their doctor. In their case a road safety, risk-based approach will be adopted and they will be able to use a “medical defence”.
Anyone on prescription drugs should continue to take them as directed by their doctor or healthcare professional. The new prescription-controlled drugs are: clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, methadone, oxazepam, temazepam, morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl. If you’ve been prescribed any of these and have concerns, talk to your doctor.
Patients are allowed to drive after taking these drugs if they’ve been prescribed and they’ve followed professional advice on how take them – as long as the medication does not make them unfit to be behind the wheel.
Anyone convicted of drug driving risks a minimum one year driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison. But as long as you have been prescribed painkillers by a health practitioner and are using them correctly, you really are unlikely to run into any problems.
For more information contact Gary Heaven by email Gary.Heaven@fdrlaw.co.uk or on 01925 230000 or 07808 140659.