Campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to introduce a ban on drug-driving following the publication of an alarming new study.
Research in the Forensic Science International journal found there were as many motorists’ deaths relating to cannabis use as alcohol use between 2012 and 2015 in Scotland.
One in five drivers killed in road accidents tested positive for cannabis during the period.
Drug-driving limits were introduced in England and Wales in 2015 but Scotland has yet to bring in such laws.
Currently in Scotland, prosecutors must prove that a person’s driving was “impaired” by the use of drugs to secure a conviction.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, described it as an “important study”.
“We don’t have the same drug-driving laws as they have down south, where they have been catching thousands and thousands of drivers and it has been heralded as a great success.
“It seems odd that in England and Wales this very successful road safety legislation is working well and yet we are still waiting for the Scottish Government to make a decision”, he said.
It was the first detailed Scottish study examining the involvement of drugs in driving fatalities in almost 20 years.
The analysis was based on toxicology reports taken from drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes between 2012 and 2015.
The study also found that the number of casualties who had taken drugs alone without alcohol has risen significantly in recent years.
In 2013, 38 per cent of deaths were linked to drug use compared with 47 per cent in 2015.
However, lead author of the study Dr Hilary Hamnett warned that it was not possible to tell from the research how large an impact drugs or alcohol might have had on the driving fatalities.
The study comes after recent figures revealed an all-time high in Scottish hospital admissions related to cannabis.
Research released by the Information Services Division found that 913 hospital admissions involving drug use in Scotland were related to cannabinoids between 2015 and 2016, up from 802 between 2014 and 2015.
The number of overnight hospital stays involving cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, were also alarmingly high during the period, especially compared to 553 for cocaine-related admissions.
Responding to the figures, the Scottish Conservative’s shadow justice secretary warned that cannabis is “not the harmless substance some would have us believe”.
“It’s quite alarming that quite so many people are being hospitalised through using cannabis, a drug many people feel authorities are going soft on,” Douglas Ross said.
He added: “We have a massive fight on our hands in Scotland both with illegal drugs and so-called legal highs. Now is not the time to give in and wave the white flag.
“We need to crack down on those circulating drugs of all kinds on our streets, and reinforce the message about just how damaging taking these substances can be.”