A new campaign by Gloucestershire's Road Safety Partnership is about to launch in the county to highlight the dangers of drug driving.
It follows a change in the law last year that makes it easier for police to convict drug drivers and the introduction of new drugs testing strips that mean officers can test for cocaine and cannabis at the roadside.
In the last Christmas Drink and Drug driving campaign alone, 21 of the 78 arrests that were made were the result of failed drug testing swabs.
Nationally, The Department for Transport estimates that drug impaired driving casualties resulted in 141 deaths and 651 serious injuries in 2014.
The Gloucestershire Drug Drive campaign will launch on Wednesday (2 March) to coincide with the National THINK! Campaign launch - a year after the change in legislation.
It will be based on the principles of deterring driving whilst impaired, detecting more drivers under the influence and by distributing materials to prescribers, patients and agencies who engage with drug users
Statistics show that men aged 17-34 are disproportionately represented in drug drive accidents and cannabis is the most common drug detected in such incidents.
Tri-force Roads Policing Chief Inspector Yan Georgiou said: "Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and totally irresponsible, that’s why the Road Safety Partnership is tackling the drug drive problem.
"The numbers are shocking and we know there is a lot of ignorance around the issue, particularly with young people.
"People need to know that is illegal to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body. The levels for eight drugs, including cannabis and cocaine, are set low so you are taking a significant risk if you take any quantity of these drugs and drive.
"A drug drive conviction will have a serious effect on your life including a criminal record, a minimum 12 month driving ban and an unlimited fine and could also cost you your job.
"That's why throughout the campaign the Road Safety Partnership will be looking to inform and educate people and make sure they know the law.
"Our roads policing officers are also aware of the campaign and people should be aware that where a road offence is spotted, or suspicious activity noted, drug wipe tests will be carried out, along with breathalyser tests."
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said: “A great deal of work has gone into making drink driving socially unacceptable. Road users need to understand driving under the influence of drugs is equally unsafe and intolerable.
“There are a number of dangerous misconceptions around drug use but I really want to raise awareness that people who get behind a wheel under the influence are not only putting their own lives at risk but others too”.
Some medicines are also included in the new legislation. However, if you are taking medicines as directed and your driving is not impaired, then you are not breaking the law. It will remain an offence to drive while your ability is impaired by drugs and, if in doubt, you should not drive.
To find out more ask your doctor or a member of the pharmacy team.
For more information about the drug drive law visit gov.uk/drug-driving-law
For more information about this campaign and all other aspects of road safety please visit: http://roadsafety-gloucestershire.org.uk/
How drugs impair driving
Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving skills in a number of ways.
Cannabis users often think they are safer when they are under the influence because they drive more slowly. However, cannabis slows reaction and decision times. It can also distort perception of time and distance, and result in poorer concentration and control of the vehicle.
Cocaine leads to a sense of over-confidence and this is reflected in user’s driving style. Users typically perform higher risk, more aggressive manoeuvres at greater speeds.
Ecstasy (MDMA) is extremely dangerous to drive on because it results in distorted vision, heightened perception of sounds, altered perception and judgment of risks and an over-confident driving attitude.
During the phase whilst the effects of any illegal drugs are wearing off the user may feel fatigued, affecting concentration levels.
Driving in any of these conditions is a bad idea – not just for the driver but for their passengers and other road users.
If you take illegal drugs, plan how to get home without driving as the Police are cracking down on drug drivers.
Consider your options and make plans by saving a taxi number to your phone, having a designated driver, or finding out about options for public transport before you go out.
Some legal medication might affect your ability to drive safely.
Do not drive if you feel drowsy, dizzy, unable to concentrate or make decisions, or if you have blurred or double vision. Check with your doctor or pharmacy team if you think you are affected.
Taking a mixture of drugs to ‘sharpen up’ doesn’t work
– in fact, combining drugs can have dramatic and unpredictable effects on a user’s state and ability to drive
Don't accept a lift from a driver you know has taken drugs