Motorhome insurance providers will look in dismay at a survey published by the RAC this week, and wonder what on earth the powers that be can do to make young drivers become more responsible drivers.
At a time when leaders of the motor insurance industry, the UK Government and motor manufacturers come together to discuss ways of making roads safer and motor insurance cheaper, the survey by the RAC suggests the message is just not getting across to young drivers. The results from interviewing over 1000 drivers showed that 17-24 year-olds are more likely to take drugs before driving now than they were 12 months ago, the figures increasing from 5% to 9%. In the same period 1 in 8 of the same age group had been in a vehicle knowing the driver was under the influence of drugs and were seemingly not too concerned.
The situation for usage of mobile devices was equally depressing with 20% of young drivers admitting they access Facebook and Twitter while driving. In 2011 the figure was just 10%! Studies by motorhome insurance providers show that drivers using hand held phones are twice more likely to have a crash, while evidence from other industry experts suggest that using a mobile phone while driving is in fact more dangerous than drink driving. So where do we go from here? The RAC believe that the Government is at least partly to blame pointing out that using a mobile phone or taking drugs while driving is not widely held to be socially unacceptable in the same way as drink driving is. The reason they believe is because the Government have not funded a national hard hitting campaign to outlaw the modern curses in the way that drink driving was targeted for many years.
Of course later this year the new offence of drug driving will arrive on the statute book and maybe that will help, but many in the industry now believe only an out and out ban will stop youngsters from being tempted to reach for their mobile phones when behind the wheel of a car.
In a move that is certain to be welcomed by insurers across the UK, the Queens Speech to Parliament today will include the introduction of “drugalysers” as a measure to combat the number of drivers who believe they can take drugs while driving a motor vehicle.
The announcement will also bring with it problems as each individual motor home insurance company has to decide on how it will deal with an insurance quote from a driver who has fallen foul of the new law, but most will see the legislation as a battle won in the war against rogue drivers. They will hope the new law will bring down further the accident rate on UK roads which in turn will lead to lower premiums for the majority of law abiding motorists.
There is no doubt that legislation is necessary. Only a few months ago experts at the Transport Research Laboratory estimated that drug abuse had been a contributing factor in approximately 1 out of 4 fatal accidents and called on the Government to take action. However, due to the difficulties the Police and Judicial systems have had in determining how big a factor drug taking affected the accident, drug abusers have usually walked away with lenient sentences. This should no longer be the case.
The new drug test, which will work in a similar way to the breathalyser, will bring uniformity to the way drug drivers are treated. Suspected drug drivers will be asked by a policeman to provide a saliva sample which will be then tested in the new machine. If the drugalyser gives a positive reading the motorist will then be taken to a police station where he will be tested using a specially calibrated machine. The machine will be capable of measuring the quantities of 13 commonly used drugs that can negatively affect a driver’s judgement. To back up the law new penalties will be put in place. A driver failing the test will be liable of fines up to £5,000 a driving ban for up to 1 year and in the most serious cases a jail sentence of 6 months.
Motorhome insurance providers will be keen to examine new Government laws concerning drivers who drive with high levels of drugs in their body which are due out next week.
It is no secret that “drug driving” is an escalating problem on UK roads and is believed to be the reason behind many accidents and injuries. A recent report from the Transport Research Laboratory suggested drugs were a contributing factor in about 25% of all fatal road accidents in the UK while 10% of young drivers responding to a Government survey a couple of years ago admitted they had driven while under the influence of illegal drugs. The problem for the police has been prosecuting drivers they suspect of driving with illegal drugs in their body. At the moment police can prosecute a driver over the alcohol limit simply by proving he has above the legal limit of alcohol in his/her body. When it comes to drugs the police not only have to prove the driver has taken illicit drugs but that it has also impaired his driving skills.
At the moment there is no concrete test solution, with police officers using field impairment tasks such as walking the white line test etc. The uncertainty of prosecution in such cases is reflected by figures from last Christmas which show that across the UK over 170,000 motorists, including motorhome drivers, were breathalysed; in the same period just 385 drivers were subjugated to field impairment tests for suspected drug misuse while driving.
The new laws will address this problem with an offence of drug driving, anticipated to be introduced via the Queen’s Speech in Parliament next month. However, this may also spell problems for insurers and law enforcement agencies if there is no stipulation on the drugs that are included in the bill. There is plenty of evidence that drivers using prescribed medication have caused accidents and it is well known that large quantities of certain prescribed drugs can give the desired effect for those wanting to get “high”. At the moment the law has focused on illegal drugs but it is clear the new laws will have to close many loopholes if it is to become a success.
Campervan owners will be shocked to learn that motorists who smoke cannabis up to three hours before driving their vehicle double the risk of having a serious accident.
That is the findings of a report produced by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) one of the most respected health magazines in the world. The report found that almost 1 in 5 people killed on the roads of the UK have traces of unlawful drugs in their body with cannabis easily the most prevalent substance. The report backs up findings from a recent survey of young motorists where over 10% freely admitted to taking illegal drugs while driving a vehicle.
The BMJ are now joining with other bodies in calling for the Government to quickly implement a law making drug driving an offence. There is no current law specifically targeting drug drivers, although police forces and insurance providers, including campervan insurance providers, say this would help them keep dangerous drivers off the road. Transport Secretary Mike Penning has stated that the Department for Transport (DfT) is working as quickly as it can to provide the police with equipment to monitor drivers but it seems a long time coming. A number of road safety organisations believe young drivers may still be ignorant of the fact that the drugs can affect driving, and campaigns based in areas where drugs are part of the lifestyle should be introduced.
Meanwhile Julie Townsend, speaking on behalf of road safety charity BRAKE, said “Tackling drug driving should be a top priority. This report highlights the danger posed by drivers who have smoked cannabis and adds weight to Brake’s calls for widespread testing and prosecution of drivers who selfishly risk lives by taking illegal drugs and driving. We are pleased the Government has expressed commitment to tackling drug driving; we now need urgent action to bring in this desperately needed change in the law – taking a tough, zero tolerance stance – and roadside screening devices to create a strong deterrent against this heinous and highly dangerous behaviour.”