Motorists told not to end ‘incredibly difficult’ year by drink-driving

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Motorists planning a boozy end to an “incredibly difficult” year are being urged not to get behind the wheel.

Police acknowledged that many people want to celebrate the festive period “even more” than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic, but warned that drink-driving “can, and does, kill”.

Forces launched their annual Christmas drink and drug-driving crackdown on Tuesday.

Officers will be operating checkpoints across the UK, requiring motorists to undergo breath and drug testing.

During last year’s operation, some 3,231 motorists failed a breath test or refused to give a sample over just a two-week period.

Some 1,175 failed a roadside drug test.

A study by the Drinkaware charity suggested 26% of people in the UK increased their alcohol consumption between March and June, which coincided with the first coronavirus lockdown.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads operations, Commander Kyle Gordon, said: “I understand that this year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, and we all want to enjoy the festive season with loved ones, possibly even more this year than in others.

“It is certainly not our intention to stop anyone from celebrating during the Christmas period, but it remains a reality that drink or drug driving can, and does, kill.

“Tragically, the Christmas period is the time of the year when motorists seem to accept the risk of drinking and driving on our roads.

“Disappointingly, it is also the time of year when family and friends seem to tolerate their loved ones taking this risk, when they wouldn’t dream of condoning this type of behaviour at other times of the year.”

Mr Gordon warned that the risk of offenders “destroying a life and causing death or serious injury” is “incredibly high”.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams commented: “There’s no question that 2020 has been a terrible year, but drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking risk making it an even worse one – not just for themselves but, more importantly, for those they all too often end up crashing into.

“Drink-driving wrecks far too many lives as it is, so we can only hope for everyone’s sake that the message gets through this year more than ever and people resist the urge to drive when over the limit.

“Drivers should also be aware that you can still be over the legal limit the morning after the night before, even if you do not feel intoxicated.”

Home Office figures revealed just 285,000 roadside breath tests were conducted by officers in England and Wales in 2019, which was the lowest amount since current records began in 2002.

AA president Edmund King blamed the “massive reduction in the number of specialist traffic officers”.

A recent report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety found that the number of officers dedicated to roads policing in England and Wales fell by nearly a fifth between 2015 and 2019.