Our opinion on the legal world, and how it could affect you

Taking Prescription Drugs? At risk of Driving Ban?

27th Feb 2015

Tough new measures to crack down on the menace of drug driving come into force on March 2nd 2015. These could see drivers who have taken more than the recommended dose of prescription drugs being put at risk of losing their Licence.



A new offence of driving with certain controlled drugs, including some prescription drugs, above specified limits comes into force on March 2nd 2015.  Doctors and Nurses will be given guidance in explaining the new Rules to reassure those of you who take prescription drugs that you will be able to drive safely without fear of being prosecuted.

You may wish to check with your GP whether any medication you are regularly taking on Prescription is likely to be caught by this provision or is being prescribed at a level that could put you at risk.

Police were already able to arrest and charge drivers if they were driving whilst impaired by drugs, including medicines quite legitimately being taken by them.  These new rules, however, mean that it would be an offence to be over specified limits for each drug while driving a vehicle on much the same lines as apply to drink driving. 

The limits for drugs such as cannabis (already of course illegal) will be low. The limits for the vast majority of the medicines that will also be covered by these provisions will be above normal dosage.

The list includes

  • Clonazepam - used to treat seizures or panic disorders
  • Diazepam - used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, anxiety disorders or muscle spasms
  • Flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol) - a sedative originally used in hospitals for deep sedation in the 1970s
  • Lorazepam - used to treat convulsions or seizures caused by epilepsy
  • Oxazepam - used to relieve anxiety, including anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal
  • Temazepam - affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause insomnia problems
  • Methadone - used in the treatment of heroin addiction & for pain relief
  • Morphine or opiates - used to treat moderate to severe pain

There will be a significant difference from the existing offence of driving while impaired in that patients will have a defence if they are taking the medicine in accordance with instructions given to them either by a healthcare professional or from a leaflet accompanying the medication subject to them not being impaired.

You may wish to get this in writing from your Doctor or keep in your car any written instructions for medication you are taking indicating the recommended dosage in your case.

If you are "impaired" as a result of taking any drug you can still be prosecuted under existing legislation.

Frank Rogers Head of the Motoring Prosecutions Team at Brown Turner Ross commented:

"This new provision is likely to cause considerable concern to law abiding people who simply take over the counter medication or drugs that are prescribed for them.  The risk can arise if they exceed the recommended dosage which, certainly in terms of painkilling medication, some people are prone to do.  The advice given, namely that you should keep with you instructions from your Doctor or, the leaflet that accompanies any medication you are taking, is sound advice.  If you are able to produce this to the Police when stopped then, it should enhance your prospect of having your explanation for being over any prescribed limit accepted. 

In the short term, I think this is likely to lead to much confusion and to people being prosecuted unnecessarily.  We can only hope that drug manufacturers will ensure that the information they provide with medication makes it perfectly clear what the recommended dose is and, that in the case of prescription drugs covered by this new provision, that the prescribing Doctor makes it clear that the medication is one that could see a driver at risk of prosecution if the recommended dosage is exceeded.

We operate a 24/7 Helpline for free initial advice to anybody concerned about a driving offence - 0800 1957517 - please call that and we will gladly discuss your case with you."