Drug drive warning after inquest into death of teenager
POLICE have issued a drug-drive warning after an inquest into the death of a teenager.
Acting Superintendent Brendan Brookshaw of Plymouth police was speaking after a Truro coroner heard the circumstances behind the death of Hayley Lane. The 17-year-old died after her car collided with a tree in the early hours of January 28, on the A374 at Sheviock, South East Cornwall.
Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon recorded an open verdict, saying she was unable to determine the "exact sequence of events" leading up to the crash.
However, toxicology tests revealed the girl had small levels of the former 'legal high' drug mephedrone – known as 'bubble' – in her blood.
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During the inquest, toxicologist Dr Simon Morley said: "We cannot be entirely certain but on the balance of probability the mephedrone is likely to have affected her time perception, increased sense of euphoria and mood, and is likely to have had an effect on Hayley's ability to drive."
Mephedrone was one of a number of so-called legal highs banned in the UK in March 2010.
MPC Gary Looker, forensic collision investigator, suggested that Hayley lost control of the vehicle as she went around a bend in the road in her silver-grey Peugeot 106.
The inquest heard how Ms Lane, of Liskeard, and her 20-year-old passenger had driven to Plymouth on the evening of January 27 to meet up with some friends at the Plymouth Guildhall car park.
MPC Neil Sullivan, lead officer in the case, told the inquest that Ms Lane was a "relatively inexperienced driver who passed her driving test just a few months before."
He added: "People need to be aware that any level of impairment is going to affect your driving. The highway code specifically says that you must not drive under the influence of drugs or medicine.
"The issue with any illegal drug is that you cannot be certain of the strength of the substance you are taking. What you think might be safe one day might be particularly dangerous on another."
Acting Supt Brendan Brookshaw said he hoped the inquest highlighted the dangers of drug driving.
He said Plymouth police had recently been working with Plymouth City Council to raise awareness about the issue. Warning messages about drink and drug driving are regularly displayed on the council's reactive signs on the main routes into the city.
He said: "No one can be sure of the effects of any non-prescribed drug, be it illegal or currently legal.
"As we have seen from previous cases the results can cause serious injury and occasionally even death.
"Young people appear willing to take the risk, to gamble with their health and possibly with their lives.
"These substances can have great effect on the user's judgement and ability to perform even simple tasks, let alone complex tasks such as driving a vehicle.
"We would urge anybody who is thinking of using these substances to be extremely careful.
"Getting behind the wheel of a car after taking substances like this is no different to doing so after drinking alcohol."