Merseyside Police has today (Tuesday, 1st December) launched its Christmas drink and drug driving campaign.

Officers from the roads policing unit will be stepping up patrols throughout the month-long campaign, which runs until Friday, 1 January 2015.

They will be paying particular attention to hotspot areas in the evenings and early in the morning, to target those who are risking driving the morning after drinking or taking drugs the night before.

The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of road deaths and serious injuries on the roads of Merseyside and to raise the awareness of the dangers around driving while over the prescribed limit or impaired through drugs.

Sergeant Paul Mountford, of Merseyside Police’s roads policing unit, said: “The numbers of people drink driving is falling and it has become socially unacceptable to do so.

“However, new drug drive laws introduced earlier this year have highlighted the prevalence of drug use among people who drive. Drug testing is now routine at the roadside in Merseyside and cannabis and cocaine are the two most common drugs used by drivers arrested in Merseyside. We have a very high detection rate in these cases of 98%.

“I would also warn people about the risks of using medicinal drugs, particularly at this time of year with the advent of colder weather. Always read the instructions on the packaging or speak to your GP or chemist. Taking certain medicines with alcohol can severely affect a person’s driving and if the label says “do not operate machinery”, that means do not drive.

“Drugs do affect an individual’s driving ability and judgement in exactly the same way as alcohol and are a factor in around 25% of all collisions. People who drive at twice the current legal alcohol level are at least 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. Therefore, as well as roadside breath tests, officers will be undertaking drug impairment tests.

“We will also be looking at the issue of people arriving at Liverpool airport and driving after drinking during their flight, and as part of this campaign we will be testing drivers leaving Liverpool John Lennon Airport to make sure people are not taking that risk.

“Our message to drivers is not to drink or take drugs and then drive, just simply pre-plan your evenings out, use public transport or have a designated non-drinking driver. And don’t offer a drink to someone who is planning to drive.

“We are all entitled to use the roads safely, be it driving, walking, or cycling. Drink and drug driving accounts for hundreds of lives every year in the UK. If you know or suspect that someone is drink or drug driving, report them anonymously via Crimestoppers. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. Play your part!”

During last year’s Christmas drink and drug driving campaign, officers carried out 8,203 breath tests in Merseyside. A total of 206 drivers failed the test and were arrested. During the same period, 231 drug impairment and drug tests were carried out, with 64 drivers being arrested.

Chief Inspector John Hogan, Head of MSOC Roads Policing said: “While the number of drivers arrested in Merseyside is significantly lower than the national average, there are still those that ignore our warnings and place themselves and others at risk. We would urge everyone to take on board our simple, key messages this Christmas – avoid alcohol if driving, if in doubt the ‘morning after’, do not drive.

“Think about the effects a drink or drug driving conviction will have on you and your family. Do not think that you will not get caught. Our officers will be conducting roadside tests morning, afternoon and evening and arrest countless drivers every month. Don’t chance it – if you’re driving, it’s better to have none for the road.”

Any driver involved in a road traffic collision, or who commits any traffic offence, can expect to be breathalysed and may be required to perform an impairment test. Since April 2015, drivers can no longer request a blood or urine specimen when their breath sample is less than 51 mgs/100 mls (the legal limit is 35mgs/100mls). Should they fail these tests the penalties can be severe.