The Government has been urged to take swift action to tackle drug driving after research revealed that 11% of young drivers have driven while under the influence of illegal substances in the past year.
The survey by Direct Line Car Insurance and road safety charity Brake found that 3% of motorists aged between 17 and 24 would drive while under the influence of banned drugs as regularly as once a month.
According to the Transport Research Laboratory, around 18% of people killed in road crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their blood, with cannabis being the most common.
A 2005 study by French researchers revealed that taking cannabis almost doubles the risk of being involved in a fatal car accident.
Brake, together with the family of Lillian Groves, who was killed in 2010 aged 14 by a driver who had been smoking cannabis, is calling on the Government to reform drug driving laws.
The Government announced proposals to tackle drug driving in March 2011. These include a law making it an offence to drive while on illegal drugs. Currently, it's only an offence to drive while impaired by drugs, which means police must prove such impairment to prosecute.
Ministers have also asked experts to consider the scientific case for a new criminal offence of driving a car shortly after taking illegal drugs. The panel will provide technical input on the effect of drugs on drivers, but not make recommendations for legislation.
The Government also wants to introduce roadside drug screening.
Ellen Booth, Brake's senior campaigns officer, said: For too long the law on drug driving has been totally inadequate. We need a ban on driving with illegal drugs in your system, and we need roadside drugalysers. The longer this takes, the more lives will be violently and tragically lost.
Drug driving: the law as it stands
Convicted drug drivers will receive:
• A minimum 12-month driving ban
• A criminal record
• A fine of up to 5000
• The conviction will be recorded on the offender's driving licence for 11 years
• Drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving can receive a prison sentence of up to 14 years
• If offenders drive for work, their employer will see the conviction when they have to produce their licence
• Car insurance costs will increase significantly
• A drug-related conviction could make it difficult to get permission to enter countries such as the US