Christmas drink-drive charges back to pre-Covid levels despite fewer roadside tests in Northamptonshire

Crackdown figures show nearly a quarter of drivers breathalysed were over the limit

By Kevin Nicholls
Monday, 24th January 2022, 12:56 pm
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 12:58 pm

Road safety chiefs in Northamptonshire fear motorists are not getting the message over drink and drug-driving.

Vastly fewer breath tests carried out during the county's Christmas crackdown resulted in just one less driver charged with being over the limit than two years ago and 29 more than in 2018.

In total, police made 119 drink-drive arrests between December 1 and January 1 after nearly a quarter of roadside breathalysers came back positive.

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Police charged 83 people with drink-driving during the December campaign

Of those, 83 were subsequently charged with driving over the prescribed limit of alcohol — and some have already been banned. That compares to 84 in December 2019 when nearly five times as many tests could be carried out in pre-Covid conditions.

Another 85 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol after failing or refusing to provide a specimen for analysis. All were initially released under investigation pending further enquiries but some have also already been charged and banned by the courts.

Officers also arrested 13 people on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs, four fewer than in 2019.

Chair of the Northamptonshire Safer Roads Alliance, Superintendent Jen Helm, said: “I’d like to thank the vast majority who did the right thing and only drove when sober — but 119 arrests and 83 charges are still too many.

“The work we do as part of our December campaign is so important in reminding people about the danger of this kind of driving behaviour.

"However, just because the festive season is over it doesn’t mean we will stop enforcing the law.

"We will continue to crackdown on those who continue to ignore the message and get behind the wheel after having a drink or taking drugs.

“Every year we warn people of the dangers of driving under the influence of drink and drugs, yet there are still some who selfishly and recklessly choose to ignore us - not only putting their own lives at risk, but those of innocent road users."

A total of 47 drivers were charged during the 2020 campaign when tighter Covid-19 restrictions reduced the number of vehicles on roads.

All those charged with drink-driving were publicly named — including five drink-drivers caught on December 25 and eight on New Year’s Day.

The majority of roadside tests carried out during the crackdown followed traffic incidents.

Drivers who cause a death while driving under the influence of drink or drugs faces up to 14 years’ imprisonment. If they’re fortunate not to be involved in a collision, if caught, they risk up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a substantial driving ban.

However, The Institute of Advanced Motorists calculate that a drink or drug drive conviction could cost up to £70,000 because of fines, solicitors fees, increase in the cost of car insurance and losing a job.

■ To report suspected drink or drug driving in confidence, call the Drivewatch Hotline on 0800 174615 or dial 101. In an emergency, call 999.