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.

8. Impact Assessment (Q7 and Q8)

8.1 Annex D of the consultation document contained a lengthy and detailed analysis of evidence used as the basis for an impact assessment conducted by the UK Government into the likely effects of the new offence on costs for businesses, the third sector and the public sector. The impact assessment focused on estimating the likely changes in the number of proceedings and reductions in the number of casualties which may result from the introduction of the new regulations and associated costs.

8.2 Question 7 in the consultation document asked a series of questions about the methodology used in making these estimates, and invited respondents to provide additional evidence that they may be aware of. Question 8 asked businesses for their views about whether the proposals would have any impact on them.

Question 7: Are you able to provide any additional evidence relating to the costs and benefits associated with the draft regulations as set out in the Impact Assessment at Annex D? For example:

i. Do you have a view on the amount of proceedings likely to be taken against those on the medical drugs proposed for inclusion under the approach in Policy Option 1? If so please give your reason(s).
ii. Do you have a view on the methodology used to estimate the amount of proceedings? If so please give your reason(s).
iii. Do you have a view on the methodology used to estimate the drug driving casualties baseline? If so please give your reason(s)
iv. Do you have a view on the methodology used to estimate the casualty savings? If so please give your reason(s).
v. Do you have a view on the methodology used to estimate those arrested on a credible medical defence under Policy Option 3? If so please give your reason(s).

Question 8: Does any business have a view on whether the Government's proposals will have any impact on them, directly or indirectly? If so please give your reason(s).

Additional evidence on costs and benefits (Q7)

8.3 Altogether nine of the total 43 respondents (all organisations) made a comment at Question 7. Three of these simply stated that they had no additional evidence to offer. Thus, analysis related to this question was based on comments submitted by six respondents.

8.4 Two respondents (both alcohol and drug partnerships) noted that the proposals may result in an increase in cost to community justice services (including the police) at a time when capacity within these services is already stretched. However, both these respondents also believed that improved detection of drug drivers would have wider social benefits, and in the longer term, financial benefits through the reduction in road traffic deaths and casualties.

8.5 Four respondents offered additional evidence, or queried the methodology used in the impact assessment:

  • A research organisation highlighted two recently published studies which suggested that 'diverting law enforcement resources from drink driving to drug driving should be done with care to avoid reducing the positive impact on road safety, as drink driving is generally more dangerous'.
  • This same organisation suggested that a small prevalence study in the UK would be beneficial to establish a more accurate baseline from which to start an impact assessment in relation to the new law.
  • One respondent from the police commented on question 7(i) about the number of proceedings likely to be taken against those on prescribed medication. This respondent noted that established procedures involved testing for alcohol first, and where alcohol was identified, abandoning any possible drug driving offence. It was suggested that the new regulations would result in an increase in detection of drugs where alcohol is not present, and that some proportion of these new offences may include people who are on prescribed medications. However, it would be impossible at this stage to estimate the scale of these detections.
  • A private sector respondent commented on question 7(ii) about the methodology used to estimate the number of proceedings that may result from enforcement of the new offence. This individual cited data from Germany which indicated that there were 20,000 drug driving prosecutions in the first three years after introducing similar legislation,[8] and after seven years, there were 35,000 drug driving (not drink driving) prosecutions per year. This same respondent commented on question 7(iv) saying that if a similar methodology was used for estimating reductions in casualties as was used for estimating the number of proceedings, the reductions in casualties would be very large, and would result in substantial savings to the NHS. This respondent felt the Government should be less concerned about how accurate the various estimates are, and instead should start the process and 'see just how successful it really is'.
  • A respondent from a medical / clinical organisation commented on question 7(iii) about the methodology used to estimate the drug driving casualties baseline. This respondent noted that the estimate of the casualties baseline appeared to take no account of the possible combined use of any of the mentioned drugs - whether alongside alcohol or not. This respondent suggested that, therefore, it was possible these effects had been under-estimated.

Business impact (Q8)

8.6 Altogether, 15 of the 43 respondents (all organisations) made a comment at Question 8. The following is a list of the potential business impacts highlighted by respondents.

  • Organisations that provide training, awareness raising, road safety advice and materials: These organisations would include, for example, the AA, Institute of Advanced Motorists, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The point was made that existing information will need to be updated in light of the new regulations.
  • Healthcare professionals: These included doctors and pharmacists. Community pharmacists were considered to be well placed to deliver information to members of the public about the new legislation. However, many community pharmacists are already stretched in terms of workload and any publicity campaign would therefore need to be paid for by the Government.

    It was suggested that doctors considering prescribing any of the listed medicines in the regulations should give the patient a brief explanation of the new regulations, so that the patient can make an informed decision about whether they wish to take the medication. However, patients (particularly those who are older, or anxious) will not always remember information given to them by their doctor. Therefore, pharmacists will need to repeat the information given by the prescriber. In addition, pharmacists will also have to inform: (i) existing patients on repeat prescriptions (many of whom will not routinely see their prescriber); (ii) those who are prescribed or are purchasing over the counter medicines containing codeine or dihydrocodeine; and (iii) other patients or members of the public who may hear about the new offences, but have not heard or understood the details. These discussions will require careful explanations and are likely to be time consuming.
  • The police: It was suggested that further detailed comments on the impact of the legislation would be provided from a Police Scotland perspective at the point at which the Scottish Government produces its own Business & Regulatory Impact Assessment. However, the point was also made that the proposed new regulations are likely to require considerable investment in terms of research, development and delivery of new operational procedures, and to have an impact on the workload of operational police officers at a time when capacity is already stretched. In addition, the purchase, provision and maintenance of approved drug screen devices will also have significant financial implications for the police.
  • The Court Service: It was noted that the proposed changes in legislation are likely to result in an increase in prosecutions. This will have implications for the scheduling of business in the courts. Moreover, if there is a wish to track the number of offences, drugs involved and reading levels, substantial changes would be required to Scottish Court Service (SCS) IT systems and administrative procedures. There will also be a requirement to link data between SCS and DVLA. These changes will have cost implications and will require a few months lead in time.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment / rehabilitation services: It was thought that these services may see an increase in referrals in line with an increase in detection of drug driving.
  • The DVLA: It was thought there would be a significant impact on the DVLA - particularly if a High Risk Offenders (HRO) scheme is also implemented. Changes will be required to IT systems and new medical examinations will need to be introduced. There will also be additional reporting requirements from the DVLA to monitor the impact of the new offences. Further work and discussion is required to agree when and how offences should be recorded. There was also a concern expressed that there may be an increase in (inappropriate) cases sent to the DVLA from the police, as some cases may be difficult to prove in court.
  • Private companies involved in the manufacture and sale of drug screening devices: These companies are likely to see growth in their sales to police forces. In addition, these companies are often involved in education and training on drugs and alcohol to UK companies, and in workplace drug and alcohol screening. This market is also likely to grow in response to the change in legislation.
  • Businesses in general: It was suggested that businesses would see a reduction in accidents and incidents involving company vehicles as a result of the new legislation. There may also be an impact on self-employed people who drive for a living (for example, taxi and lorry drivers), and who are also taking analgesics for pain-relief.

8.7 Finally, there was also a view that the proposed legislation would have a positive impact on communities, by making communities safer.


Email: Mari Bremner

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