Christmas drink-drive pleas fail to cut crashes

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The Independent Online
A hard core of motorists are continuing to drink and drive during Christmas, new figures reveal. Jason Bennetto and Jeremy Riggall examine the evidence of an increase in the number of drivers involved in accidents while over the limit.

Twelve out of sixteen police forces in England and Wales have reported an increase in the number car crashes involving drunk drivers.

Early figures suggest that the anti-drink drive message is failing to make inroads into a small but significant number of motorists - typically middle aged men - who get into their vehicles while over the limit.

The provisional figures, however, add weight to calls by the police and doctors for a lowering of the alcohol limit to about one pint of beer. The Government is due to consider have a two-tier system with a lesser penalty for people caught on one pint of strong ale or two glasses of wine. The current maximum level is just over two pints or four measures of spirits.

The national picture for the 43 forces in England and Wales is likely to remained confused because of the different counting systems now used by the police. Totals for the remaining 27 police forces have yet to be analysed. Also, as in previous years, the Association of Chief Police Officers has failed to provide a regional breakdown and only includes positive tests that are taken at the scene of a crash.

Early result show that during December there was an increase on last year in the proportion of drunk drivers involving accidents in the Metropolitan Police area, Hampshire, Dorset, Leicestershire, Cumbria, Norfolk, Northumbria, Surrey, Wiltshire, Humberside, Northamptonshire and Essex. There was a decline in Greater Manchester, Suffolk, Lancashire and Dyfed-Powys.

The continued refusal of a small band of drinkers to leave their vehicles at home was condemned by police officers yesterday. Inspector Mick May of Surrey Police said: "The figures show that the vast majority of motorists have acted responsibly and heeded the anti drink-drive message, but there is still a hardcore who get caught up in the festivities and insist on driving. These people give no thought for the consequences of their actions."

Superintendent Keith Mavin, of Northumbria, said: "People who drink and drive are a menace to society."

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Moody, of Cheshire Police, added: "There is a hard core of drivers who are willing to put their own lives and those of others at risk."