Driving and cannabis - the facts

Drowsiness, poor judgement, delayed reactions, risk-taking – these are just some of the many possible consequences of getting behind the wheel intoxicated by alcohol. Each one increases the risk of accidents, while jeopardising the safety not just of the driver, but also their passengers and all other road users who they may come into contact with.

But things seem a little less clear when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs – specifically, cannabis.

Though illegal, people who smoke cannabis may be under the impression that it doesn’t impact their ability to drive. So, is it possible they may get caught by the police? And are the consequences as severe as being caught drink driving?

Before we answer these questions and more, are you looking to get back on the road following a driving offence or other non-motoring conviction? If so, the Insurance Factory can help by arranging convicted driver insurance on your behalf.

We understand that the past is the past. Whatever your offence, we know that you’ve probably come to regret your actions.

That’s why we don’t judge; instead, we’ll look at your individual circumstances before finding the right policy, for the right price.

A field of hemp plants at sunset

What the stats say

Drug driving seems to be on the rise in the UK – and so, too, do drug-driving arrests.

Figures cited by FleetNews show that the number of drug-driving prosecutions nearly doubled in 2018, with a record 10,215 cases in England and Wales, compared to 5,368 the previous year.

Data from Suffolk Police revealed that arrests for drug driving surpassed the number of arrests made for drink driving for the first time in the county in 2018/19.

A total of 672 people were arrested in 2018/19, representing a 20% increase on the previous 12 months, while drink driving jumped by 11.3% to 652 arrests.

Stats like these led road safety charity Brake to call on the government to grant police in England, Wales and Scotland the power to introduce checkpoints and randomly test drivers to find out whether they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Seven in 10 drivers told Brake that they would welcome random testing, with just one in 10 being against the idea.

Joshua Harris, Brake’s director of campaigns, noted: “Drink and drug driving are a blight on our roads and drivers need to expect that if they break the law they will be caught and punished.”

The number of serious or fatal crashes where a contributing factor was a driver or rider impaired by medicinal drugs jumped by 8% from 2016 to 2017, from 447 to 484.

Cannabis and crash risk

Studies shared by Brake show that drivers who have taken cannabis are 1.65 times more likely to cause a fatal collision, while 4.2% of fatal incidents could have been prevented if the driver hadn’t taken the illegal drug.

Canada analysed road accident hospital admissions between 2009 and 2011 and discovered that cannabis use among drivers increased the risk of serious crashes fourfold.
A car crashed lightly into the back of a car in-front

The view among cannabis users

Many cannabis users think they can drive safely while high. A study from PSB Research and Buzzfeed News, cited by The Guardian, found nearly half of users believe they are safe getting behind the wheel while they are still stoned.

In contrast, just 14% of people who don’t use cannabis think that it’s safe for people to drive after using the drug.

What the law says

Regardless of whether or not a driver feels like they’re safe to drive while high, it’s against the law.

As Gov.UK notes, it’s illegal to get behind the wheel if you’re unfit to do so due to being on legal or illegal drugs; or if you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they do not impact your ability to drive).

If you take to the road after smoking cannabis, you could get pulled over. The police have the power to stop you if they believe you’re on drugs – for instance if you’re driving in a dangerous or irresponsible way.

When they’ve pulled you over, they might ask you to carry out a ‘field impairment assessment’. This involves a number of tests, including asking you to demonstrate that you can walk in a straight line.

The police might also use a roadside drug kit to screen for drugs. This might involve an oral saliva drug testing kit or a so-called DrugWipe.

If a test shows that you have used cannabis, and the police deem you unfit to drive due to taking the drug, you’ll be arrested there and then.

The police will take you to the station and ask you to provide further blood or urine tests. If these tests show that you’ve taken drugs then you might be charged with a criminal offence.

A police officer watching a busy dual carriageway

Penalties for drug driving

Depending on your individual case, if you’re caught drug driving you could be banned from driving for a minimum of a year, face an unlimited fine, spend up to six months in jail and receive a criminal record.

It will show that you’ve received a drug-driving offence on your driving licence and this will last for 11 years.

It’s not just the implications on your driving record, though. A drug-driving conviction could increase your car insurance costs significantly, plus you might find it difficult travelling to certain countries in future, such as the USA.

It can also be very problematic if you drive for a living – either for an employer or as a self-employed business owner.

Convicted driver insurance from the Insurance Factory

If you’re looking to get back on the road following an offence, but have struggled to find competitively priced cover, try the Insurance Factory.

Some of the convictions we can consider include:

DR10s - Convicted of driving or attempting to drive with a blood alcohol level exceeding allowable limits
SP50s - Convicted of exceeding the speed limit on a motorway
DD10s - Convicted of driving in a dangerous manner
DD20s - Convicted of driving at a dangerous speed
DD30s - Convicted of reckless driving

Competitive cover with excellent benefits is not a thing of the past. Get a free, no-obligation quote for convicted driver insurance today.