Drink-driv­ers get­ting away with it, say cam­paign­ers

As the party sea­son be­gins, ex­perts fear drop in the num­ber of breath tests will lead to more ca­su­al­ties

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

BREATH tests for al­co­hol have fallen by a quar­ter over five years, fig­ures show, as cam­paign­ers warn that drunk driv­ers are get­ting away with it. Cam­paign­ers said that over­all deaths as a re­sult of drink-driving had re­mained static as the num­ber of breath tests dropped, prov­ing a hard core of drink driv­ers are ig­nor­ing the so­cial stigma.

John Scruby, a cam­paigner against drink driving and a former traf­fic of­fi­cer, said that such of­fend­ers would con­tinue to drink and drive un­less the law was bet­ter en­forced.

“It’s the same with mobile phones,” he said. “Certain peo­ple think they’ve be­come im­mune, but they haven’t.”

Christ­mas is a peak time for drinkdrive of­fences. Last week po­lice said that dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign they stopped more than 100,000 vehicles, with 5,698 pos­i­tive, failed or re­fused breath tests.

Af­ter years of de­clin­ing deaths as a re­sult of anti-drink cam­paigns, the fig­ure stalled at 240 be­tween 2010 and 2014, lead­ing to fears that the crime’s so­cial un­ac­cept­abil­ity was wan­ing. In 2015, the most re­cent fig­ures avail­able, there was a drop to 200, but a spokesman for the parliamentary ad­vi­sory coun­cil for trans­port safety said the over­all num­bers were too low for this to be seen as a de­fin­i­tive re­duc­tion.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures from the De­part­ment for Trans­port show that ca­su­al­ties from drunken driving in­creased be­tween 2014 and 2015, from 8,210 to 8,470.

“We are wor­ried peo­ple are be­com­ing more re­laxed and blasé about drink driving be­cause they think there are fewer po­lice out there,” he said.

A re­port by the In­sti­tute of Al­co­hol Stud­ies ar­gues that al­co­hol lim­its should be low­ered to pre­vent more peo­ple be­ing killed on the roads. In the UK the limit is 80 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per 100 millil­itres of blood, but this should be low­ered to 50 mil­ligrams, the authors say.

Data ob­tained from an FOI re­quest sent to po­lice forces in Eng­land, showed that the num­ber of breath tests made by po­lice fell from 606,411 in 2011 to 456,736 in 2015.

The re­port added that traf­fic pa­trols had been par­tic­u­larly af­fected by po­lice cuts, with many forces re­port­ing a drop in the num­ber of of­fi­cers polic­ing our roads. Ear­lier this year, the AA said older peo­ple were more likely to drink and drive be­cause they be­lieved they pos­sessed the skills to be able to drive safely un­der the in­flu­ence, which was why the num­ber of con­victed over-65s rose from 1,295 in 2005 to 1,435 in 2015.

A spokesman said: “They have de­vel­oped bad habits, prob­a­bly got away with it in the past and be­lieve they can drive when half-cut.”

A Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “Fig­ures show that deaths as a re­sult of drink driving on Bri­tish roads are at a record low.”

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