How does cocaine affect driving?

Did you know that around 500 serious and fatal road crashes in the UK are caused by drug abuse every year? However, experts estimate that the true figure could be much higher.

It’s little wonder, then, that the law on drugs and driving is so strict. You may want to read up on what the law is around drug driving. If you’re convicted of drug driving, you’ll get a minimum one-year driving ban, face up to 6 months in prison, a criminal record and a fine (which is unlimited).

Your driving licence will also be tarnished with a drug driving conviction. This will last for 11 years.

If you’re found guilty of the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs, you could face a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

A conviction for drug driving can bring other problems, too. If you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence, which could lead to you losing your job and make future employment more difficult.

It can also make travelling to countries like the USA an issue, for instance, if you have a conviction on your record.

Meanwhile, your car insurance costs are likely to increase significantly following a conviction for a driving offence.

That’s where the Insurance Factory comes in. We specialise in finding  affordable convicted driver insurance, working hard to find you a policy for a competitive price, but that is packed with all of the features of a typical car insurance policy.

We don’t judge drivers and we understand that you’ve probably come to regret your driving offence. We all make mistakes, which is why we will take into account your individual circumstances before finding a policy suited to your needs.
A drivers perspective of driving under the influence with blurred lights at the road side

Drugs and driving: an increasing problem

Research suggests that use of drugs by drivers is on the rise.

According to a study by the Department for Transport, 60% of people feel the number of people driving while impaired by legal or illegal drugs has increased in the past five years.

The police have the powers to do a ‘field impairment assessment’ of any driver they suspect has used drugs.

This is a series of tests, for example asking a driver to walk in a straight line. They also have the ability to use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine.

If the results suggest the driver is unfit to drive because of taking drugs, they’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station. Anybody who returns a test which shows they’ve taken drugs could be charged with a crime.

While the police work hard patrolling the roads to identify any motorist driving with drugs in their system, arguably the best way to deal with this growing problem is to improve awareness.

Driving under the influence of cocaine

Cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug in the UK, according to the latest statistics from the Home Office Crime Survey for England and Wales.

The report found that nearly one million (976,000) people had used the drug in its powder form in the 12-month period recorded.

It is an offence to drive with cocaine or its metabolite (by-product) – benzoylecgonine – in your system at a level which is above the specified limit, regardless of whether your manner of driving is affected.

In terms of the legal limit, the law effectively takes a zero-tolerance approach. However, because our bodies naturally produce certain compounds and chemicals, authorities have had to decide at what level certain substances affect your driving ability as traces of drugs and their metabolites can hang around in your blood.

Any driver found to exceed 10 micrograms of cocaine per litre of blood (µg/L) – or 50µg/L of benzoylecgonine – in their system faces being charged with a drug driving offence.

Taking cocaine tends to make people more alert, increasing their focus and attention. This might sound like it could be helpful for driving in some way, but studies have shown that drivers are up to 10 times more likely to cause a serious or fatal collision after taking cocaine.

It’s not difficult to understand why there is an increased risk of a serious accident when driving under the influence of cocaine when you consider that the drug causes overconfidence and can cause erratic behaviour.

In the period after using cocaine, people can feel like they have the flu, feel sleepy and lack concentration.

Once the euphoric high of the drug has worn off and the drug metabolises into benzoylecgonine, users can typically encounter a definitive ‘comedown’ lasting around 24 hours in which they can experience exhaustion, depression and anxiety. All of which can affect driving ability.

After last use, cocaine or its metabolites can typically show up on a blood or saliva test for up to two days, a urine test for up to three days, and a hair test for months to years. A frequent user can test positive on a urine test for up to two weeks.

But there are other factors which can influence how long it stays in someone’s body, such as metabolism, weight, dose, and frequency of use. Drinking alcohol while taking cocaine may also slow its extraction from the body.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t consume any cocaine – or any other illegal drugs – and then get behind the wheel. In fact, it is illegal to do so.

The number of motorists convicted for driving under the influence of drugs has increased fourfold since 2017.

DVLA figures show around 20,000 motorists were convicted after using substances in the 12 months to the end of 2019. Don’t become a drug driving statistic.
A policeman watching a busy motorway

Convicted driver insurance at Insurance Factory

Here at the Insurance Factory, we have over 20 years of experience helping people get back in the driver’s seat following a range of different convictions, be they motoring or non-motoring related.

Regardless of your conviction, competitive car insurance with excellent benefits isn’t a thing of the past.

When you’re ready to get back on the road, get a quote for convicted driver insurance from the Insurance Factory and see how much you could save.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.