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Blog: Would you pass a drug-driving test?

Policeman giving driver roadside sobriety testIf you haven't taken drugs, passing a drug-driving test should be easy, right? Not necessarily, according to motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller, who says the current roadside drug-driving test is incredibly complicated. 

There has been talk for some time now of changes to legislation to help police apprehend drivers who drive under the influence of drugs.

The present tests the police must conduct involve not only proving that a driver is under the influence of drugs, but also that their driving was impaired.

And these tests are incredibly complicated.

My team and I recently attended a training course on the procedures in drug-driving cases and, of course, none of us were under the influence of drugs.

However, I am not sure how some of us would have fared even if we were stone cold sober abut were actually stopped by police and asked to do some of these tests at the roadside!

Drug-driving test

The current drug-driving roadside test is split into five sections, as follows:

1. Pupil size

Watch out if you wear contact lenses or suffer with watery eyes as this could be enough for the police to decide you are impaired when they check the size of your pupils.

2 & 3. Balance test

Now these were tricky!  First, the police ask you to stand and balance with your eyes closed and head tilted back. You then have to count to 30 seconds in your head.

The next test involves the accused being instructed to stand on one leg for as long as the officer decides, while also counting out aloud "one thousand and one, one thousand and two" etcetera.

(Not exactly easy for us women if wearing the latest pair of Jimmy Choos!)

3. Balance & turn test

As if the standing and balancing wasn't enough, the officer then issues the following instructions - which I have a headache just reading let alone carrying them out!

"Place your left foot on the line. Place your right foot on the line in front of your left touching heel to toe. Put your arms down at your sides and keep them there throughout the test.

Maintain that position while I give you the remaining instructions. When I say start, you must take nine heel-to-toe steps along the line. On each step the heel of the foot must be placed against the toe of the other foot.

When the ninth step has been taken, you must leave the front foot on the line and turn around using a series of small steps with the other foot. After turning you must take another nine heel-to-toe steps along the line.

During the test you must watch your feet at all times and count each step out loud. Once you start walking do not stop until you have completed the test".

4. Finger nose test

This sounds easier to do than it is in reality and one of my team, who shall remain nameless, slightly missed his nose when he did this!

You have to stand with your feet together and both hands out in front, palms side up and closed with the index finger of both hands extended.

When told, you must tilt your head back slightly and close your eyes.

When told which hand to move, you must touch the tip of your nose with the tip of that finger and lower your hand once you have done so.

The police instructions are to call out the hands in the following order: left, right, left, right, right, left.

Failing the test

Even if you fail only one of these tests, the police can conclude you are impaired and request an evidential (as in could be used against you in court) specimen of blood or urine from you.

Even if you have only have traces of legal drugs in your system when tested, you could face prosecution.

This is because the offence of driving while impaired extends to being impaired by legal and illegal substances.

This means that you could be prosecuted for impaired driving whilst having consumed cough medicine that makes you drowsy.

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director at motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

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Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director of motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.

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