Drink-drive arrests drop 15% over festivitiesBy Amy Taylor
January 10, 2013
DRINK-DRIVE arrests over the festive period dropped by 15% from the year before, despite an increase in the number of breathalyser tests carried out by Hampshire police.
The figures released on January 9 have been heralded as a success for Hampshire Constabulary’s hard-hitting ‘Don’t Get Smashed’ campaign, which ran from December 1 to January 1.
It was backed by a father whose daughter was killed when her Vauxhall Corsa crashed into a van on the A323 near Fleet in November 2011. She was four times over the alcohol limit and died instantly.
He remained anonymous during the campaign, but spoke about the devastating effect the accident had on the family.
“To lose someone you love in such a terrible way causes indescribable pain. When we later found out that (she) had been drinking it made that pain so much more agonising – knowing that it was that decision which ultimately ended her life,” he said.
Images of the 23-year-old’s wrecked car were used in the campaign, along with video footage featuring interviews with emergency crews who attended the crash scene.
During the month-long campaign, a total of 5,811 drivers were breath tested, an increase of 4%, or 243, from the previous Christmas. Of those tested, 205 people were over the limit and were arrested, 12% of whom were at least three times over the limit.
Chief Inspector Andy Bottomley of roads policing, said: “I would have been happier if we had breath tested more people and seen even fewer arrests. The figures show that we still had 205 people fail the test and were over the limit. There is clearly still work to be done, and clearly still some stupid individuals who drive after drinking, putting not only themselves but other drivers at risk.”
Since the campaign, 140 drivers, 68% of those arrested for failing the breathalyser test, have been charged with drink-drive offences, 51 were bailed 51 (25%) and 14 (7%) released with no further action.
“It’s been a very high profile campaign. People seemed to like and respond to the interactive elements on YouTube, and I certainly think the use of the car helped,” said Insp Bottomley, adding that it would be something the force would look into using again.
Initial arrest figures in the first few days of the campaign were very high, with 17 arrested in one weekend, which officers said at the time was ‘hugely disappointing’. Insp Bottomley admitted that it had been concerning.
“We know that we get an increase in the build-up to Christmas,” he said. “It is one of what I call the Fatal Four – distraction, speed, no seat belt and drink-driving.”
It was the increase of 9% in drink-drive arrests over Christmas 2011 which made it clear a new strategy to tackle the problem was needed, he said. Neighbourhood teams helped to raise awareness of the ‘Don’t Get Smashed’ campaign with bumper stickers and beer mats in pubs, and the addition of the car from 2011’s fatal crash helped hit the message home.
Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said he was pleased to see the message appeared to be getting through to drivers.