A month-long drink and drug drive campaign in June has revealed more than 98 per cent of motorists in Merseyside are driving responsibly.
This year’s campaign saw 6,787 drivers stopped by Merseyside Police and breath tested for alcohol – over 1,300 more than last year, with a total of 131 drivers arrested – an increase of seven on the previous year’s campaign.
This year, with the introduction of specified limits for drugs in March and the use of new roadside testers, 231 drivers were tested for drugs with 63 arrested for either being unfit to drive or suspected to be over a specified limit. That represents a large increase on last June’s campaign when 51 impairment tests were conducted and 10 drivers arrested.
Chief Inspector John Hogan, Head of Roads Policing in Merseyside said: “These results should reassure the public that we are committed to detecting those drivers that place other road users at risk. It is pleasing to see a significant increase in the number of breath tests our officers have conducted and a slight drop in the percentage of drivers failing the alcohol breath test (down to 1.9% from 2.1%). It is a very small minority of drivers who continue to drink and drive and flout the law, often through ignorance.
“We know that the use of recreational drugs has increased in recent years and we have suspected for some time that drug use among drivers was prevalent. However, historically we have had to show that the drugs adversely affected a person’s driving ability. With the introduction of the new offence under Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, we no longer have to prove any such effect. Simply being over the specified limit for a particular drug is now an offence.”
Merseyside now uses two types of drug testing device which can be used at the roadside, at a custody suite or in a hospital. Both test for the presence of cannabis and cocaine, the two most commonly found drugs in drivers, and 14 other drugs.
Sgt Paul Mountford, from Merseyside Police’s Roads Policing team, said: “The devices enable us to use the legislation to its full effect. I believe the training Merseyside Police has conducted in recent years to equip its officers with the skills to recognise drugs and detect impairment is also a key factor.”
Cannabis was the most commonly detected drug, present in 90% of those who tested positive for drugs. The specified limit for cannabis is set at 2 nanogrammes per 100ml of blood.
Sgt Mountford added: “We will continue to work hard throughout the Summer to detect those drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs and have already re-stocked our drug testing devices in readiness. The message to those drivers that use cannabis is simple – the limit is set very low and even a small amount of cannabis is likely to mean that they are over the legal limit.
“The reduction of offenders and education of new drivers is of paramount importance to the Force. In addition to enforcement, Merseyside Police continues to work with local authorities and driving instructors as part of the Engage driver scheme to ensure that new drivers ‘get the knowledge’ and also with Wirral Council, talking to managers and drivers in local businesses about the risks of alcohol and drugs.”
Drivers convicted of drink and drug driving face a minimum 12 month driving ban and a fine of up to £5,000. In some cases, they face imprisonment.
If you know or suspect someone is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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