The Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 came into force on 2 March 2015. The regulations have a significant impact on employers who employ staff to drive.

Philip Moy, retail regulatory lawyer, considers the new regulations and how they affect retailers and offers some practical tips on how to comply.

The law

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 made it an offence to drive a motor vehicle while being unfit to do so as a result of drug consumption, and section 5 prescribed limits of alcohol consumption.

By virtue of section 56 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, a further section, 5A, was added to the Road Traffic Act 1988, creating an offence should a driver exceed the prescribed limits for certain drugs. The new regulations specify the controlled drugs and in each case the prescribed limit for the purposes of this offence.

The offence

The new regulations set out the prescribed limit of certain controlled drugs that, if exceeded, will constitute an offence, irrespective of the effect on a person’s ability to drive.

The regulations set out eight legal medications and eight illegal drugs that fall within this section and ultimately, bring the law against drug driving in line with the law against drink driving. The spirit of the new law is to encourage drivers to take greater responsibility for their actions and reduce the risks to other road users.

The legal medications covered by the regulations include anti-anxiety drugs as well as strong painkillers. The illegal drugs include cannabis, cocaine and LSD.

Practical tips

Both employers and employees can take the following steps to minimise the risks of falling foul of these regulations

  1. Employers should ensure that employees who drive are aware of their responsibility to inform employers of their prescribed drug regime.
  2. Employees on prescribed medication must take it in accordance with instructions, and keep those instructions with them in the car in case they are stopped.
  3. Employers should regularly check their drivers understand their responsibilities and where possible carry out spot checks in the same way as they would to prevent drink driving.
  4. Employers should amend driving policies to reflect these changes and liaise with their brokers and insurers to obtain their sign off on the policies to ensure coverage.

The new regulations are assisted by new and more accurate road side drug testing kits (‘drugalysers’) which can assess drug traces from a saliva swab. Penalties for individuals who commit offences under these new regulations range from a one year driving disqualification and fines of up to £5000, to a prison sentence. It is a defence if a driver can show that the drugs were taken in accordance with any directions given by the person by whom the drug was prescribed or supplied.

The regulations also include an offence for failure to provide a specimen and drivers need to be aware of the need to co-operate regardless of whether the medication was prescribed.

What does this mean for employers?

The inclusion of defined limits for prescription medicines signals a significantly increased due diligence administrative burden for employers who require their staff to drive. For retailers, this will of course include delivery drivers, but will also extend to area or store managers that may need to travel between locations. Indeed, both employers and their insurers should educate their employees about the regulations and insist on medication checks and confirmation that drug driving policies have been updated with associated regular training. While the first prosecutions under the new regulations will throw up a multitude of legal, procedural and reputational challenges and arguments, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that employer responsibility could extend to corporate manslaughter if an employee, who is subsequently found to have had drugs in their system, is killed or kills another on the road whilst carrying out their work.

It is therefore important that employers take heed of this zero-tolerance approach and ensure that measures are in place within the workplace to ensure compliance.