04 Jun Nearly 3,000 motorists caught driving under the influence in the East of England in one year
Nearly 3,000 motorists were caught driving under the influence in 2018, as offences increased 59% in two years, according to new data.
New Freedom of Information data obtained by Confused.com found 2,863 motorists fell foul of the offence in 2018, up from 1,806 in 2016. However, these offences may not be strictly down to illegal drug use, as some over-the-counter and prescription medication also carry warnings to not be taken before driving. This includes chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine or promethazine which can all be taken to curb symptoms of hay fever.
And as temperatures start to heat up across the UK, Confused.com is urging motorists to take care before taking certain over-the-counter drugs to curb hay fever symptoms. Motorists taking some types of antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine or promethazine, could end up on the wrong side of the law they suffer side effects which can impact driving ability.
In fact, some drivers in the East of England have already felt these side effects first-hand. According to further research, more than two fifths (42%) of drivers in the region suffer from hay fever, with one in 15 (7%) claiming medication taken to curb their symptoms impacted their ability to drive. These motorists suffered from drowsiness or delayed reactions – both of which are dangerous while behind the wheel.
But according to the research there is a lot of confusion around what medication is or isn’t safe to take before driving. In fact, more than one in six (17%) motorists in the East of England are confused about which antihistamines they can take and safely drive. Although this isn’t the only type of medication which is leaving drivers slightly baffled. More than one in five (23%) are confused about which over-the-counter drugs can be taken before driving, while a further one in five (21%) are also confused about which prescription drugs are safe to take before driving.
Given that not all medication is safe to take before driving, Confused.com is urging motorists to double check for any potential side effects that could affect them behind the wheel and lead to breaking the law. To clear any confusion around the safety of certain drugs, Confused.com has compiled a search tool outlining the driving limits for several common prescription and over-the-counter medications. The calculator lets users select a drug or medication to find out how much they can take before getting behind the wheel, if at all, and how it could affect their ability to drive.
The tool also highlights the effects of illegal drugs on driving, as offences across the UK has risen by 16% in two years. According to Freedom of Information data, 14,582 offences were recorded by police in 2018, up from 12,571 in 2016.
It is likely not all offences recorded were down to illegal drug use. In fact, research suggests UK drivers have felt incapable of controlling the car after taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs (5%), which could be deemed as careless driving. This is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of £5,000, three to nine points on your licence, and a potential disqualification(2). Meanwhile, the punishment for drug-driving is more severe and will see motorists face up to six months in prison, banned for a minimum of 12 months, as well as landed with an unlimited fine(3). Some (16%) think this is too harsh for those caught over the legal limit of prescription drugs.
Regardless of which drug or medication people are taking, it’s clear motorists need to clue up on the side effects they could be facing before they risk breaking the law. While nearly half (47%) of UK think doctors and pharmacists should offer clearer advice on the effect of medications on driving ability, drivers can take matters into their own hands. Confused.com’s drug-driving guide should give drivers the information they need to make a decision, before jumping behind the wheel.