Britain is in the grip of a drug driving epidemic with more than 60 people a day being banned from the roads, figures show.
Nearly 20,000 motorists were convicted over the last year for being under the influence of drugs – almost four times as many as previous years.
Among them were 44 teenagers aged 15 and 16 who were caught high on drugs at the wheel before they could even sit their driving tests.
Campaigners say scores of drivers are still slipping through the net as the proportion of offenders being stopped and tested at the roadside has fallen. The number of dedicated road policing officers has fallen by a third in the last decade. A stock image is used above
A further 201 newly qualified drivers were also caught drug driving at the age of 17.
The shocking new figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that 19,615 drivers were banned from January 2018 to the end of March 2019 – the equivalent of 60 every working day.
Six people were disqualified after killing someone while driving under the influence of substances including cocaine and cannabis.
The DVLA data does not reveal whether a jail sentence is imposed, but some of those who killed while driving under the influence of drugs escaped with a four-year driving ban.
The statistics, released under freedom of information law, show men make up the bulk of offenders, with 18,175 banned from January 2018 to March 2019 compared with just 1,440 women [File photo]
Former roads safety minister David Jamieson, now West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said: ‘These figures are staggering. The reality is drug driving is a hidden epidemic.
‘A lot of people think they can get away with it because so few police are on the roads and the likelihood of being stopped is really low. What we need is tougher enforcement.’
In 2017, the Mail revealed that 10,731 intoxicated drivers had been banned from the road since March 2015 when drug driving first became a specific criminal offence.
That was the equivalent of about 86 convicted every week or 17 every working day.
Now the number facing court sanctions after being caught on drugs has almost quadrupled with 302 convicted every working week or 60 a day.
The DVLA data suggests drivers in their late twenties are the worst offenders, with 25 being the most common age of disqualification for drug driving.
But it isn’t just young people being caught. In the 15 months to March, 78 drivers over 60 were prosecuted for failing drugs tests, with the eldest driver banned being a 74-year-old woman.
The statistics, released under freedom of information law, show men make up the bulk of offenders, with 18,175 banned from January 2018 to March 2019 compared with just 1,440 women.
The shocking new figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that 19,615 drivers were banned from January 2018 to the end of March 2019 – the equivalent of 60 every working day [File photo]
The figures include those prosecuted for drug-related offences including causing death by careless driving, driving or attempting to drive with a drug level above the specified limit and driving or being in charge of a vehicle when unfit.
The Mail has highlighted the growing menace of drug driving. In the first year of the new law, more than half of drivers stopped on suspicion of taking drugs failed roadside tests.
A police survey showed that officers in 26 forces had carried out 5,857 roadside drug tests, with 3,718 testing positive in the 12 months to February 2016.
Last year the Mail revealed how accidents involving drug-drivers had also risen by more than 50 per cent in a year.
Spared prison, cannabis teen in death crash
Max Coopey, 18, was over the drug-drive limit when he ploughed into Jason Imi and John Shackley, who died instantly as they walked back from a work dinner
A police officer’s son caused the death of two pedestrians while driving his parents’ £35,000 Audi after smoking cannabis.
Max Coopey, 18, was over the drug-drive limit when he ploughed into Jason Imi and John Shackley, who died instantly as they walked back from a work dinner.
But despite being under the influence of the class B drug, the teenager was spared jail at his trial in January this year.
Coopey, who had passed his test two months before the crash in August 2018, was prosecuted for drug-driving rather than death by dangerous or careless driving. Thames Valley Police did not consult the CPS.
Coopey, whose parents were police officers, had 3.3 micrograms of cannabis in his blood – above the legal limit of 2mcg. He said the drug had not affected him at his victims’ inquest in July.
He said: ‘Just because something is in your blood doesn’t mean you’re under the influence. Google it.’
He also had codeine in his system but denied taking it.
Coopey was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, a 24-month driving ban and ordered to pay £105 costs.
But campaigners say scores of drivers are still slipping through the net as the proportion of offenders being stopped and tested at the roadside has fallen. The number of dedicated road policing officers has fallen by a third in the last decade.
A spokesman for road safety charity Brake said: ‘These shocking figures reveal just how prevalent drug driving is on our roads. It is vital that both the law and our enforcement ability is effective in catching, punishing and deterring this dangerous behaviour.
‘The Government must prioritise the type-approval of roadside screening devices that can detect all banned drugs and step up roads policing levels to deter offending.
‘We also need to see the law used to its fullest extent with tougher penalties handed out, making clear that drug driving will not be tolerated.’
Motorists convicted of drug driving face the same penalty as drink drivers – a minimum ban of a year, unlimited fine and up to six months in prison, though few are jailed.
Criminal records for motoring convictions are usually spent after five years although details of drug driving remain on a driving licence and DVLA driving record for up to 11 years.