Festive warning to motorists

MOTORISTS who drink alcohol or take drugs before driving are the targets of a Suffolk police Christmas campaign to make the county's roads safer.The festive crackdown on driving offences was launched yesterday and officers warned that people who take drugs and drive should expect to be stopped and face tests, which could lead to their conviction.

MOTORISTS who drink alcohol or take drugs before driving are the targets of a Suffolk police Christmas campaign to make the county's roads safer.

The festive crackdown on driving offences was launched yesterday and officers warned that people who take drugs and drive should expect to be stopped and face tests, which could lead to their conviction.

While the death toll on the county's roads stands at 53, already ten more than last year, figures released yesterday showed that 18% of drivers and 22% of passengers involved in road deaths had illicit drugs in their bodies.

However, the police said that it is not only illegal drugs that impair a person's ability to drive but also medicines and prescribed remedies, and they advised drivers to heed the warnings written on the containers.


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Officers in Suffolk will use field impairment tests over the Christmas period to identify drug-fuelled drivers. The checks, which are derived from the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests used by the majority of police forces in the United States, are:

n The examination of a subject's pupils. If they are outside the normal range of between 3.0 and 6.5mm this is recorded as abnormal.

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n The Romberg test of person's internal clock. The driver is asked to tilt their head back slightly, close their eyes and estimate the passage of 30 seconds. Results between 25 and 35 seconds are classified as normal.

n The walk and turn test, which examines co-ordination and balance. The subject is asked to stand with their right foot in front of their left foot, touching heel to toe. They are asked to take nine steps along a line, turn and walk nine paces back. The suspect must count out loud and look at their feet while doing the test.

n One leg stand test. The person is asked to stand on one leg with the foot raised six to eight inches parallel to the ground. They must look at their foot and count out loud.

n Finger to nose test. The suspect is asked to extend the index fingers of both hands and hold them palm facing forward. With the head tilted backwards and eyes closed the person is asked to touch their nose with their finger.

If the results of the five tests give abnormal results a blood sample can be taken from the suspect for forensic testing.

Inspector Joy Mayhew, who is in charge of traffic and support in the county's western area, said yesterday that 17 tests had been carried out since October and six people had been arrested.

She said the tests are voluntary and cannot be enforced yet, but officers are hoping a reading device will be invented eventually, like the breathalyser for drink-drivers.

"I do not think drug-driving is something young people are as aware of," she added.

"Officers in Suffolk run a Drink/Drug and Drive Campaign 365 days of the year. Over the forthcoming few weeks officers will be ensuring that they actively target those who may consider having a Christmas drink before getting behind the wheel.

"The key element of this campaign that we want to emphasise to the public is the need for people to think about how they and their friends are going to make it home safely."

Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey, who is head of traffic, said: "Too often during the festive season our officers find themselves having to break tragic news to a family that one of their loved ones has been seriously injured or killed as a result of being involved in a collision on Suffolk's roads – we just don't want to have to do this.

"We want people to take responsibility for themselves and their friends and to take basic common sense steps to keep safe when they are out and about."

These include designating someone who does not mind staying sober to take responsibility for making sure everyone reaches home safely; not driving if you plan to have a drink and booking a taxi, checking the rail and bus timetables or arranging for someone to collect you; ensuring that you can be seen if you are walking home.

Nearly one in ten people breath-tested in Suffolk during the festive period last year was over the drink-drive limit.

The figures saw a sharp rise in the number of positive breath tests from 6% to 8.6%.

Eighty-nine of the 1,041 drivers stopped by police in Suffolk for driving badly or after being involved in an accident had a positive breath test.

Five more were arrested for refusing to provide a specimen.

Those caught drink or drug driving face an appearance in court, a large fine and the loss of their licence and, in serious cases, imprisonment.

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