Nervous flyers at risk of driving ban… make sure you’re not about to fall victim to little-known law change

Thousands of nervous flyers could be inadvertently risking a driving ban, fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in jail as police use recent law changes to crackdown on drug drivers.

nervous flyer at airport

Stressed woman in airport. Thinkstock/Kieferpix

The legislation – which came into force back in 2015 – not only targets illegal drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine, but also covers legitimate drugs used in the likes of pain killers and medicines to treat anxiety and stress.

The new law also differs from previous laws, where it had to be proved that the driver was impaired by a drug, to a system of limits just like the current test for drink-driving.

Now, regardless of impairment, exceeding a certain level of the drug in your system will – in the majority of cases – result in a ban.

How does this impact nervous flyers?

One of the drugs included in the list of over-the-counter medicines targeted is diazepam – a generic name for Valium. This is widely prescribed by doctors to help nervous flyers successfully manage their anxiety and enjoy a much more relaxing flight.

Is it legal to use ‘Valium’ when flying?

In the UK it is completely legal for nervous flyers to be prescribed this drug to help them overcome their fears, however, some countries won’t allow it be carried either on the person or within the bloodstream.

How much will it put me over the limit?

As with alcohol, this will be different for each of us. Our height, weight and metabolic rate will dictate how long the drug remains in our system.

Surely the fact it was prescribed will be a defence?

It will certainly make a ‘medical defence’ possible in many cases, but you must adhere to the dosage levels set by your doctor. However, it is certainly possible that taking several doses of Valium during a long-haul flight could easily leave you impaired and over the drug-driving limit.

Can the police give a roadside test for this drug?

No. Currently, it is only possible to use roadside saliva tests for cocaine and cannabis-type drugs. However, if the officer believes a driver is impaired, he or she can make them take a blood test at the police station. The police will not need to prove impairment to do this.


What should I do to stay safe?

If using Valium to ease anxiety when flying, it makes sense to either use public transport, book a taxi, get your partner to drive or book a night at a nearby airport hotel.

What are the prescription drugs covered by the new limits?

These drugs are all covered under the 2015 drug-driving legislation.

  • Clonazepam: Prescribed to treat seizures or panic disorders
  • Diazepam: Anxiety disorders (such as fear of flying), alcohol withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms
  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol): Sedative
  • Lorazepam: To treat convulsions or seizures caused by epilepsy
  • Oxazepam: Used to relieve anxiety, including anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal
  • Temazepam: Used to treat insomnia problems
  • Methadone: Treatment of heroin addiction and for pain relief
  • Morphine or opiates: For moderate to severe pain control


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