Drug Driving: Proposed Regulations – Analysis of Consultation Responses

This report relates to Scottish responses to a joint public consultation undertaken by the UK Government and the Scottish Government in relation to proposals for new regulations on drug driving limits. The responses to the consultation will help to inform decisions about whether Scottish regulations should be brought forward under the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and if so, what policy approach should be adopted for the setting of drug driving limits for specific types of drug.

4. Proposal not to Set Specified Limits in Urine (Q3)

4.1 The consultation document explained that, on the basis of the expert panel's recommendation, the Government proposed not to set limits in urine for drugs covered under the new offence. The reason given was that it is not possible to establish evidence-based concentrations of drugs in urine. There is also no translation of the concentration of a drug in blood to a concentration of that drug in urine. Respondents were asked to give their views about this proposal, and Question 3 asked:

Question 3: We have not proposed specified limits in urine as we believe it is not possible to establish evidence-based concentrations of drugs in urine which would indicate that the drug was having an effect on a person's nervous system. Do you agree with this (i.e. not setting limits in urine)? Is there any further evidence which the Government should consider?

4.2 Altogether 24 respondents (23 organisations and 1 individual) replied to Question 3. Of these, 22 out of 24 (92%) agreed with the Government's proposal not to set limits in urine. None of the respondents disagreed with this proposal; however, two of the 24 (8%) expressed views that were unclear. See Table 4.1.

Table 4.1: Question 3: Do you agree with the proposal not to set specified limits in urine?

Respondent type Yes No Unclear Total
Road safety, motoring and licensing organisations 6 100% - 0% - 0% 6 100%
Medical, clinical and research 3 75% - 0% 1 25% 4 100%
Pharmacist groups and pharmaceutical bodies 5 100% - 0% - 0% 5 100%
Alcohol and drug partnerships 3 75% - 0% 1 25% 4 100%
Charitable organisations and forums supporting patients with chronic pain 1 100% - 0% - 0% 1 100%
Other public sector organisations 2 100% - 0% - 0% 2 100%
Private sector organisations 2 100% - 0% - 0% 2 100%
Other respondents - 0% - 0% - 0% 0 100%
Totals 22 92% - 0% 2 8% 24 100%

4.3 In general, respondents said that they were happy to be guided by the recommenda-tions of the expert panel in this matter. Some said that they considered it to be 'sensible' not to set limits in urine given the arguments set out in the consultation document. One respondent endorsed these arguments, stating that, 'the concentration of a drug and / or its metabolites in urine varies more than in plasma and oral fluid'.

4.4 A small number of points were raised by respondents in their comments on Question 3. These issues were raised both by those who agreed with the proposal, and those who expressed unclear views.

4.5 One respondent voiced the view that the Government's arguments were inconsistent - sometimes based on evidence (for example, in the case of not setting limits in urine) and at other times based on current policy (in relation to setting zero tolerance limits for certain drugs). Others highlighted concerns about the practical aspects of enforcement:

  • One respondent (from the police) expressed the view that the lack of an alternative to testing in blood is a weakness in the process. The point was made that some individuals may be unable to provide a blood sample - either because of a diagnosed medical condition, or because of a fear of needles. Without a blood sample, there will be no way to take forward prosecution under the proposed new regulations. Therefore, existing procedures related to the Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 4) will have to come into play. This respondent believed that effective enforcement would require an alternative to taking blood.
  • One respondent (an alcohol and drug partnership) also had concerns about the practical implications of enforcement, and argued that 'impairment and driver responsibility should take precedence over any specified limits directed by legislation'.

4.6 Finally, one respondent (from a medical / clinical background) explicitly stated that they had no view on the question of whether limits should be set in urine. However, this respondent noted that urine testing for drugs is currently an established part of the current road traffic process and suggested that it should be continued.


Email: Mari Bremner

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