Bogus breath-test figures lead to climbdown

The police may stop publishing figures on the number of motorists who fail breathalyser tests during Christmas after a dispute over drink-driving statistics.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) also revealed yesterday that it will reconsider the entire presentation of the Christmas anti drink-driving campaign. This follows a survey in The Independent yesterday, which indicated motorists did, in fact, heed the anti-drink driving message during the festive period despite the police announcing an 18 per cent increase in the number of people driving while over the limit.

A survey of the 43 forces in England and Wales suggests fewer people were drinking and driving and that the increase is accounted for simply by the police testing more people this year.

Since 1995, Acpo has refused to reveal the number of people breathalysed, only disclosing the number positively tested and the number of accidents caused by drunk motorists.

Paul Manning, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and spokesman for Acpo's Traffic Committee, wrote to The Independent saying: "The reaction to the statistics provided this year may well lead us to reappraise the information we provide and possibly lead us to stop publishing the number of positive tests altogether, perhaps only publishing the number of alcohol- related accidents and adding other categories."

Motoring and safety groups are opposed to censoring details of the Christmas drink-drive campaign. Edmund King, head of campaigns for the RAC, has suggested that the police may be exaggerating the drink-drive problem to bolster support for lowering the alcohol limit for drivers and increasing police powers to stop motorists at random.

But Mr Manning defended the figures, saying said that there was never any intention of misleading the public. "Drawing conclusions from the drink/drive statistics has always been a contentious area," he added.

Letters, Page 11