7:30pm Tuesday 4th June 2013
By Natalie Crockett - Crime reporter
FORCES usually run such campaigns in summer and at Christmas, as shown by the poster above Too many myths about drink or drug-driving Every month 23 people in Britain are killed and 108 are seriously injured by drink or drug drivers.
NATALIE CROCKETT looks at how police in Gwent are joining officers across Wales to tackle the problem during a month-long awareness campaign.
ONE drink is one too many if you are about to get behind the wheel of car – that’s the view of Gwent Police Chief Inspector Paul Evans, who is leading acrackdown on drink and drug drivers throughout June.
This month, he will lead Gwent’s roads policing team and officers on the beat, targeting motorists who drink under the influence.
This will include more frequent stop checks to catch those breaking the law, reinforce the anti-drink-driving message and educate drivers.
Last year, a total of 6,693 people were stopped and breath tested in Gwent throughout the year. Of those, 789 people either tested positive or refused to provide a sample.
This was down from a total of 10,098 in 2011, with 841 positives or refusals.
Numbers spiked in June and December in both years when the police carry out their twiceyearly campaigns.
During last year’s summer clampdown, 3,261 drivers were tested with 50 – 1.5 per cent – testing positive, refusing or failing to provide a test.
While that small number will go on to be prosecuted by the courts, Ch Insp Evans says the campaign is about much more than enforcement.
He said: “It’s not a numbers game as to how many people we can stop and arrest, it’s about making the roads a safer place.”
“If you are stopped and it’s a negative result – that’s positive for us. That person will go home and tell family and friends they were stopped and that they were OK.
“That positive message gets around by word of mouth and hopefully people will think again about driving after a drink.
“If you have got nothing in your system you’ve got nothing to worry about. We don’t get many people who don’t consent, people are very supportive and they like seeing us doing something – they feel reassured.
“We are all different, and it [alcohol] affects us in different ways. If you have had a drink you should not be getting in your car.”
As well as alcohol, police have to be sensitive to motorists who may have taken drugs and one particular battle they face is making those who take recreational drugs or “legal highs” realise that they too are a danger.
Chf Insp Evans said: “Public perception is mainly around alcohol, but it’s not just alcohol – those people that do take what are known as legal substances can be impaired as well.
“We have seen various statistics in the media in the UK about legal highs but not much research has been done on the effect on driving. But anything that can reduce your reaction time and visibility can affect your driving.”
And people should not just assume they will be OK after a good night’s sleep, he said.
“We have had people in the past stopped in the morning with alcohol still in their system, particularly around Christmas time.
“People have a lot to drink and just because they have had a night’s sleep they think they are OK,” he said.
“We have all got different tolerance levels for alcohol and people need to be aware of that.”
Contrary to some people’s beliefs, Chf Insp Evans said that offenders come from all age groups.
He said: “There’s no one group that I am aware of that is worse than any other and we don’t target people as such.
“We don’t see a young lad and go after them. “We stop people because of their manner of driving.
Whenever we stop someone it’s because officers will have a suspicion their driving has been impaired.”
“The consequences [of drinkdriving] can be devastating not only for you the driver, but other innocent people on the road.
“If you are driving at speed, whether it’s 30,40, 50mph, even if you hit a person and they aren’t killed the damage that can cause can be devastating.
“Then there are the consequences to the driver of a prison sentence, a driving ban, the effect on insurance, losing your job.
“We are asking people to think again before getting behind the wheel.”
Deaths spark call for no tolerance
ROAD safety charity Brake, which is backing the campaign, is calling on the government to tackle the confusion about what’s safe and what’s not by lowering the legal limit to a zerotolerance level.
Chief executive Julie Townsend, said: “Even very small amounts of alcohol increase your risk of crashing dramatically, yet every year thousands of drivers risk it, and too often this results in tragedy.
“We need everyone on board with the message that it’s none for the road, and if you do risk it, you will be caught.”
Each month in Great Britain 23 people are killed and 108 people are seriously injured by drivers over the drink-drive limit, the charity says.
It is estimated that a further 65 people are killed annually by drivers who have been drinking, but are under the limit.
High price to pay for conviction
POLICE can stop anyone they believe may be driving under the influence of drink or drugs to request a breath test. All drivers involved in an accident will be routinely tested.
There is currently no roadside test to test for drugs, although one could be developed so a blood sample will be taken at a police station.
The legal alcohol limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, or 80milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal threshold for drugs is different for each drug.
Those convicted face a prison sentence of up to six months, a minimum 12-month driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000, and an endorsement on your licence for 11 years.
Those convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink face a prison sentence of up to 14 years; an unlimited fine and a minimum two-year driving ban.
You are also likely to lose your job, will have trouble visiting countries like the United States and it will probably increase your insurance costs.
Gwent Police has made a short film to reiterate the messages of the campaign, which can be seen online at youtube/ue6NW5A3DFM Anyone with information about people who are drinking and driving can report them by calling 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group