Steer clear of alcohol and drugs if you’re driving this Christmas

Throughout December Devon and Cornwall Police will be making sure that the region’s roads are a safe place for everyone.

The annual Christmas operation to stop people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, through awareness raising and rigorous enforcement, is under way.

Any drivers involved in a collision and any motorists whose driving may lead police to suspect they are under the influence of alcohol will be breathalysed. If drug driving is suspected, drivers can also be tested at the roadside using a mouth swab device.

Devon and Cornwall Police is keen to dispel some commonly held myths about drink and drug driving.

Roads Policing Inspector Richard McLellan emphasised that being “under the limit” for a breath test does not necessarily mean that a driver’s judgement and abilities are not impaired.

He said: “If the police have observed you driving in a careless or dangerous fashion whether you have had a collision or not, you could still be arrested, charged and prosecuted for a Section 4 offense of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle whilst unfit through drink or drugs, even if your breath test indicates a level below 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.”

Inspector McLellan continued: “Drivers also need to stop assuming that they can “sleep it off”. From a sample of 98 people that had a positive, failed or refused breath test in June 2017, seven were found to be significantly over the limit the morning after.

“One 38-year-old man blew 147 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath at 9.24 on a Wednesday morning.  Sleep has nothing to do with reducing the alcohol level in your blood, only time.”

“Our message is clear and simple: don’t drink or take drugs and drive, and give due consideration to the morning after. It is simply not worth it.”

Police are also emphasising that the effects of a collision caused by driving with impaired judgment due to alcohol or drugs extend much further than initial damage, injury or fatalities.

Inspector McLellan said: “If you drive while impaired you not only increase your chance of causing serious injury or a death through a collision, but also risk consequences in trying to carry on with a normal life.  The penalties when caught have far-reaching implications on any drink driver’s life financially, emotionally, psychologically and on their family and friends.

“The punishments for drink driving are rightly severe because there is no excuse for doing it. If convicted of drink driving you will have a criminal record, lose your licence and potentially your livelihood and you could spend time in prison and receive a large fine. Convictions can also significantly increase insurance premiums and prevent travel to certain countries.”

Preventing death or injury is as simple as pre-booking a taxi back from a party or having an alcohol free designated driver in your group.

Since 2013, the average percentage of drivers who have been stopped in Devon and Cornwall that were positive, failed or refused alcohol breath test is 20%. The national average from figures released by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) this year is 10%.

Inspector McLellan concluded: “Drink driving cannot be tolerated at any time of the year but we will ensure very close attention is being paid over the festive period. This is intelligence led policing and it means that in Devon and Cornwall you are twice as likely to get caught if you are selfish enough to do it.”

Current drink-driving penalties are listed here: https://www.gov.uk/drink-driving-penalties