Breath test numbers falling fast

DRINK drive campaigners spoke of their concern last night after it emerged the amount of breath tests taken in Suffolk had plummeted 43% in seven years - at a time when a greater percentage of drivers are failing them.

By Danielle Nuttall

DRINK drive campaigners spoke of their concern last night after it emerged the amount of breath tests taken in Suffolk had plummeted 43% in seven years - at a time when a greater percentage of drivers are failing them.

Police now conduct 7,000 fewer breath tests every year in the county than they did in 1998, new figures have revealed.

But during that time, the percentage of motorists who test positive for being over the drink drive limit has increased from 8% to 11.5%.


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Suffolk Constabulary has put the drop in tests down to more targeted policing, where officers act on specific information by a member of the public that lead them to a suspect.

But road safety campaigners last night urged police to step up their patrols, and not to use targeted policing at the expense of random patrols.

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Mandy Roberts, chair of the Campaign Against Drink Driving (CADD), said: “We are giving the wrong message here.

“We need the police out there doing breath tests and taking action against the people being caught.

“Drink driving is one of the areas that need stepping up rather than cutting. More than 3,500 people are killed on our roads every year, many through drink driving. We're talking about people's lives.

“Yes, we need people to say 'so and so are in the pub and drinking and are showing every intention to go out and drive their car'. But we also need the random testing.

“We should not be swapping one for the other but using them both to our advantage to get people off the roads who are drinking and driving.”

According to Home Office figures, 15,600 breath tests were carried out in Suffolk in 1998, 1,200 of which were positive (8%).

In 2005, however, only 8,852 breath tests were conducted in the county, of which 1,015 were positive (11.5%).

Chief Inspector Neil Atwell said: “Suffolk police runs it drink and drug drive campaign 365 days of the year. With the lead up to Christmas and New Year period we will continue our enforcement against irresponsible drivers who continue to get behind the wheel of a car who have been drinking or taking drugs.

“Any person stopped and found to be over the legal limit can expect to be charged and will have to attend court. Their names will be released to the media who regularly support police by reporting on drink and drive cases, wherever possible publishing pictures of offenders.

“We rely on information from the public, over the past few years we have been encouraging members of the public to call us with information in relation to people who drink and drive, we are then in a position to target these individuals.”

During Suffolk Constabulary's summer drink drive campaign, which ran from June 5 to July 5, 115 motorists failed breath tests out of 1,272 tested (9%).

Between January 1 and the end of September, police in the county have breathalysed 5,525 motorists, of which 721 tested positive.

With the force preparing to re-launch its Christmas drink drive campaign, Ch Insp Atwell said it was extremely disappointing people were continuing to ignore the law.

“These irresponsible people put themselves and other road users at risk of serious injury or even death,” he added.

Members of the public can pass on information about those they suspect of drink driving by ringing police on 01473 613500 or via the Tell The Police facility on Suffolk police's website www.suffolk.police.uk.

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