Prescription Drugs and Driving: The Law

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While the safety information and advice about the dangers of driving under the influence of drink or illegal drugs is widespread, what is less well known among many drivers is the law regarding driving and prescription drugs. It can be easy to think that because a medication isn’t illegal and has been prescribed by a friendly GP, that there is no danger when it comes to driving; however, this isn’t always the case.

New laws were introduced in March 2015 in England and Wales making it an offence to drive with certain levels of eight prescription drugs. These include:

Morphine – an opioid based medication used to treat pain

Diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, temazepam, and oxazepam – sedatives used for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia.

Methadone – an opiate substitute used in drug addiction treatment.

The new law is unlikely to affect those who are otherwise fit to drive and are taking their medications as directed by a medical professional, and even if you are above the specified limit, but your driving is not impaired in any way, and you are taking the medication as advised – you will not be breaking the law.

Ed Morrow, campaigns officer for road safety charity Brake said,

“We are confident that the necessary measures are in place to ensure drivers who take prescription medication are not unfairly penalised. However, many prescription medications can have a negative effect on your ability to drive safely, and there is a worrying lack of awareness of this among the public.”

What to Do if You Are Taking Any of the Specified Medication

If you are currently taking any of the medications listed above you should continue to take them as prescribed. You should always read the leaflet that comes with the medicines for information about how they could impact your ability to drive. You shouldn’t drive after taking medication for the first time until you know how it will affect you. Don’t drive if you feel dizzy, drowsy, have changes in vision or are unable to concentrate.

If you are Stopped by the Police

If you are stopped by police and they suspect that the influence of drugs is impacting your ability to safely drive, then they can check the type and level of drug, which can be confirmed via a blood test taken at a police station. If you are taking prescribed medication, you may wish to have evidence, such as a prescription or doctor’s note with you when you drive, as this may save you time and inconvenience if you have to deal with the police. if you are over the legal limit for a prescribed medication, the medical defence only applies if the medication was prescribed, sold, or supplied to you for the treatment of a dental or medical problem – and you took the medication following the instructions of a medical professional or pharmacist, or the written instructions included with the medication.

Remember, that regardless of whether the medication is prescribed, it remains an offence to drive while your ability to do so is in any way impaired. If you are in any doubt as to your capability to drive safely, you shouldn’t do so.