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Drug Driving Statistics

Insurance Revolution

Our Drug Driving Statistics in a Nutshell

Here for the quick facts? Here are the key statistics our research into drug driving uncovered:

  • 1 in 20 of people in the UK admit to having driven a car at least once while under the influence of illegal drugs
  • 3% say they regularly do so
  • 1 in 20 admit to having driven while drowsy as the result of taking over the counter medication

See below for more details. 

 

 

Have you ever wondered how many people drive under the influence of drugs? In this article we will look at some of the statistics surrounding drug driving. 


Here at Insurance Revolution, we have seen just how many people are calling us for drug driving insurance and wanted to speak to the public to find out how widespread drug driving is. To find out, we conducted our own anonymous survey asking the public if this is something they regularly do, or if it is something they have done in the past. You can see the results of our survey below. In this article we will also take a look at other statistics regarding drug driving.

 

 

Drug driving actually appears to be on the rise. According to government figures in 2019 there was a nearly 20% rise in the number of drug driving incidents compared to the year before. In April of that year there were 266 arrests for drug driving, when the previous highest for a single month was 184. There was a fall in the number of cases during 2020, most likely due to the pandemic and lockdowns, but the numbers were still high. There is a theory that the lockdowns could have caused more drug use amongst drivers.

 

 

Drug driving is becoming a bigger problem than drink driving

Some of the more recent statistics surrounding driving under the influence shows that drug driving is becoming a bigger concern than drink driving. There are areas of the UK where the police are carrying out 50% more arrests for driving under the influence of drugs than they are for drunk driving. Figures from the Merseyside police are showing that 30% of those tested have failed a drugs test. With 18% of failures arising from the use of ‘legal’ prescription drugs. 

It may be the case that there are greater societal pressures to not get involved in drink driving, but the same cannot be said for drug driving. 
 


 

Drug Driving - Our Survey

In April 2021, we conducted our own survey asking over 1000 members of the general public their history of driving under the influence of drugs. We asked 1,041 drivers the following question;

Which, if any, of the following statements apply to you (Check all that apply)

  • I have driven a car while feeling drowsy after taking prescription medication at least once. 
  • I have driven a car while under the influence of illegal drugs at least once. 
  • I have driven a car while feeling drowsy after taking legal over the counter medication. 
  • I regularly drive a car under the influence of illegal drugs. 
  • Prefer not to say
  • None of the above. 


The initial answers to this question may surprise some. Below is the percentage of people that checked a particular answer; 


I have driven a car while feeling drowsy after taking prescription medication at least once. - 6%

I have driven a car while under the influence of illegal drugs at least once. - 5%

I have driven a car while feeling drowsy after taking legal over the counter medication. - 5%

I regularly drive a car under the influence of illegal drugs. - 3%

Prefer not to say - 1%

None of the above. - 83%


The fact that 3% of people surveyed admit to regularly driving a car under the influence of illegal drugs is a surprising statistic, this was 30 people out of everyone surveyed. This number could be higher as 10 people said they prefer not to say. 

83% of people surveyed checked ‘none of the above’ but this does mean that 17% of people surveyed have admitted to drug driving in some form. 


Our survey - the breakdown

We will take a look at some of the most interesting facts coming from our survey

  • A higher percentage of women than men admitted to driving under the influence of drugs, with 6% of women admitting to driving whilst feeling drowsy through legal drugs, whereas only 4% of men admitted to this. 4% of women said they regularly drive under the influence of illegal drugs, where only 2% of men admitted the same. 
  • It appears that younger drivers are more likely to drug drive. 8% of 18-24 year olds say they regularly drive after taking illegal drugs, and 11% say they have driven after feeling drowsy from legal medication. The over 55’s had very few people admitting any form of drug driving, with 85% checking the ‘none of the above’ option. 
  • In regards to cities, people from Plymouth were least likely to drug drive, with 94% of people checking ‘none of the above’. London had the greatest number of people admitting to drug driving, with 6% saying they regularly drive after taking illegal drugs.  
  • In regards to regions, Greater London has the highest number of people admitting to drug driving in some form. The least likely to drug drive was tied between the South West and Scotland. 

The chart above shows clearly that driving under the influence of drugs is a bigger issue with the younger population. Only a small percentage of people over the age of 55 have admitted to driving under the influence of any drugs. 

 


Driving under the influence of prescription drugs

It is not just the case that you shouldn’t be driving after taking illegal drugs, as it is possible to break the law driving under the influence or legal prescription drugs. Many prescription drugs can greatly affect your ability to drive, so you should always check with your doctor or pharmacist whether you are able to drive on your prescribed medication. 

See below a list of prescription drugs that you should be wary of when it comes to driving. We also include the legal limit you can have in your system whilst driving, if you go over this you could be prosecuted. 

 

Prescription Drug Legal Driving Limit (micrograms per litre of blood)
Clonazepam 50µg/L
Diazepam 550µg/L
Flunitrazepam 300µg/L
Lorazepam 100µg/L
Methadone 500µg/L
Morphine 80µg/L
Oxazepam 300µg/L
Temazepam 1,000µg/L

 

Drug Driving - The Effects

There is not just one way that drugs can affect your body. Different drugs will have different effects, and you should be aware of them. Drug driving is responsible for more than 1 in 20 of the fatal crashes in the UK. This will be due to the way drugs can affect your body negatively. The effects can include, but are not limited to;

  • Slow reactions - Slower reactions means you are less likely to avoid hazards. Cannabis is a big culprit of this. It can also affect your concentration and cause fatigue. Research has also shown that it can make you steer less accurately. 
  • Surge of adrenaline - Your heart can beat faster and the adrenaline can make you take bigger risks as you will feel a false sense of over confidence. MDMA, or ecstasy, is one of the drugs that can give these side effects. Cocaine can also cause over-confidence.  Ecstasy can also cause panic attacks, confusion and even paranoia. All of these things would have a huge negative impact on drivers. 
  • Muscle paralysis - It goes without saying any bout of muscle paralysis whilst driving can be highly dangerous. Drugs including ketamine and PCP can cause this. 
  • Hallucinations - Many drugs can cause hallucinations, including LSD and magic mushrooms. They can also appear to slow down or speed up time and movement, which makes it almost impossible to judge the road safely. 
  • Drowsiness - Many prescription medications can cause drowsiness. Whilst obviously prescription drugs are legal themselves, it is illegal to be driving over the limit on prescription drugs, and with good reason. Drowsiness whilst driving can cause you much slower reaction times, reduced coordination and your ability to think clearly will be severely affected. 

 

Drug driving facts

  • You double your chance of being involved in a crash that causes serious injury or a fatality if you drive under the influence of cannabis. If you combine this with alcohol the chances increase 16x. 
  • The chances of being in a fatal accident or causing serious injury increases between 2x and 10x if you are under the influence of cocaine or opiates. 
  • Being under the influence of amphetamines increases your chances of being in a serious injury or fatal crash by between 5x and 30x.  
  • If you are caught and convicted of drug driving you could receive a minimum 12 month driving ban, up to 6 months in prison and an unlimited. As well as this you will have the conviction on your licence for 11 years. 
  • Causing death by dangerous driving whilst you are under the influence of drugs can lead to a prison sentence of 14 years. 
  • Police can charge someone for driving over the limit on if they had at least 1 of 16 specified drugs in their system. Half of these 16 drugs are medicinal drugs, so drivers are just as likely to be convicted for driving under the influence of a legal drug.

 

Unfortunately it does appear that drug driving incidents are still a major issue. Our survey shows there are plenty of people comfortable with admitting they have driven under the influence of drugs at least once, and many even admitting they drug drive regularly, it doesn’t appear that the number of drug driving incidents will decrease anytime soon. 

Some of the statistics used in this article were sourced from Brake.

 

 


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