Misuse of alcohol and drugs can affect all of us, however, many may not be aware of the dangers that even painkillers can present when it comes to their driving skills. Police forces are aware that there has been an increase in the use of drugs and drink during the COVID Lockdowns, impacting on the number of arrests which are reported to be three times higher than in 2019*.

The effects

Alcohol and drugs can:

  • Give us a false sense of confidence
  • Affect the brain, taking longer to receive messages from the eyes
  • Make processing information more difficult
  • Delay instructions to the body’s muscles
  • Can cause blurred or double vision
  • Cause possible paranoia

These in turn lead to:

  • Reduced coordination, and a slower reaction time
  • Affecting the judgement of speed, distance, and risk
  • Reducing driving ability

Alcohol and drugs take time to leave the body, meaning you are not fit to drive for several hours after. This not only depends upon quantity but how long your body takes to cleanse your body of the substance.

It’s important to remind your drivers that sleep, coffee, and cold showers don’t help anyone become more sober.  In fact, it takes at least 10 hours for your body to process and to remove the effects of 5 pints of beer. When it comes to recreational drugs such as cocaine, it is present in a person’s saliva for 2-6 hours and in their sweat for up to 24 hours and will become evident if tested by the Police.

When is it illegal to drive when having drunk alcohol?

It may be legal to drive having drunk alcohol in England and Scotland, however, it’s best practice to not drink when driving at all. This is because everyone’s metabolic rate is different and the effects of alcohol vary for different people.

When is it illegal to drive when using drugs?

It’s illegal to drive if:

  • You’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs
  • You have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if you think they haven’t affected you’re driving)

It’s also an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you haven’t been prescribed them

The sobering facts

In 2018, the estimated figures for drink driving collisions and casualties:

  • Fatalities – 240
  • Serious – 1,370
  • Slight – 7,080

There was a total of 85,000 drink driving convictions, of which 85% were male. A total of 8,680 people were affected.

What can we as Managers do?

Drink, drugs, and driving are not compatible. Drivers should have a policy to not undertake driving ‘work’ whilst they are under the effects of any alcohol or drugs.

How can you help your drivers manage the risks?

  • Have a policy using detection methods for drug use
  • Toolbox Talks to educate your workforce
  • Use the “Think Videos” to educate 
  • Test for substance abuse to implement your policy at least once a year
  • Drivers fit to drive declaration as part of their Daily Defect reporting
  • Use our notice board poster as a reminder (downloadable from December Newsletter or contact us for a copy)
  • Use our online Professional Development Plan training 

You can also ‘detect to protect’ using screening for drugs and drink, it’s legal and helps to protect your staff, covering your corporate and social responsibilities.

Road Skills Online Professional Development Plan

We believe that regular relevant Toolbox Talks can help to improve driver’s behaviour on the road, helping you to save ££££’s on your bottom line. Our monthly bite-sized 36-month programme covers drink and drug awareness under the Fitness to Drive, and Driver Health and Wellbeing Toolbox Talks

Let our e-learning help you deliver your driver professional development with ease, what’s more, you can get a demonstration and free trial to test it out, just click on the banner below to book.

Sources| Department of Transport 2017 | Highway Code Rules 95-96|The Road Traffic Act 1988 sections 4, 5 and 11(2) | Gov UK | Detec International*| RAS 51001

Published| December 2020

Updated | January 2021