DRUG-DRIVING has been linked to more than 250 road accidents in Scotland over the past five years – including 21 deaths, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

The number of drug-affected crashes in one year reached the highest level over that same period with 65 cases in 2015.

The figures have been revealed in an analysis of official figures carried out by this newspaper, which record what factors may have influenced the accident in the opinion of police officers attending the scene – which can include everything from road and vehicle conditions to poor manoeuvres and driving too fast.

The figures, published by Transport Scotland, show that between 2011 and 2015, the driver or motorbike rider in 262 accidents was assessed as being impaired by either illicit or medicinal drugs – 21 of which involved fatalities.

The Scottish Government has been accused of lagging behind England and Wales by failing to introduce drug-driving limits and roadside ‘drugalyser’ tests.

Last month the Sunday Herald revealed research which showed the same number of drivers have died on Scotland’s roads after taking cannabis as those who died after drinking.

A spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said: “The number of road crashes affected by individuals under the influence of drugs is worrying.

“As a charity that works closely with those bereaved by a road death, we see the devastating consequences of crashes caused by those driving under the influence and recognise the need to raise awareness of how people choosing to drink or take drugs are hindering their ability to drive safely.

“Brake is calling for zero tolerance on drink or drug driving from the Scottish government and the wider public. We are calling for stronger legislation, more roadside testing and greater resources for the police to enforce a ban on drug and drink driving.”

The total number of accidents linked to drug-driving is around four times the number where the use of a mobile phone is believed to have impaired the driver – which was cited as a factor in 67 accidents over the five years.

However alcohol is a more commonly cited contributory factor than drugs, which is believed to have been involved around 1,300 accidents between 2011 and 2015.

The publication from Transport Scotland notes that figures have to be treated with caution as they based on opinion at the time of the accident, but aim to provide insight into how road accidents occur and how they can be prevented.

David Stewart, Labour MSP for Highland and Islands and a veteran road safety campaigner, said he was planning to formally meet with justice secretary Michael Matheson soon over the issue.

Stewart said: “Clearly drug-driving contributes to accidents according to Transport Scotland reports and I welcome any movement from the government.

“I would be hopeful we could have both drug-driving limits and enhanced instruments – such as the drugs equivalent of breathalyser for police – which would aid detection on the roadside.

“The main issue is to have a deterrent so people considering driving who are impaired because of drugs – either prescription or not – will think twice.”

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government prioritised lowering the drink-driving limit in 2014 as evidence showed such a policy could help save lives.

“Scotland has long standing legislation used by Police Scotland, prosecutors and our courts that makes it an offence to drive while being impaired due to drugs.

“We are considering very carefully whether evidence shows that specific drug driving limits should be introduced in Scotland and this consideration will include evaluation of the evidence of the impact of drug driving limits that have been introduced in England and Wales.”