Police figures, released yesterday, showed the number of motorists in England and Wales who failed breath tests taken after crashes over Christmas and the New Year fell by 22 per cent compared with the same period in 1997-98. The figures do not reveal how many people were caught drink- driving overall - they only provide information on motorists who have been involved in an accident.
Ken Williams, the vice- chairman of the traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said yesterday the "horrific figure" had to fall. "We are disappointed that a large number of people still commit this heinous crime."
About 6 per cent - involving 1,081 people - of the tests done at 16,795 accidents during the police's Christmas drink-drive campaign were positive.
Police chiefs again called on the Government to lower the legal alcohol limit from about two-and-a-half pints of normal strength beer to about one pint. They believe up to 50 lives a year could be saved if the lower level was introduced. Ministers are considering this butthere are fears that they may be backing away from what could be an unpopular move.
The police say the success of the annual campaign means more motorists now drive while over the limit in the summer months. The advertising campaign was spearheaded by a series of commercials featuring reconstructions of real, alcohol-related road accidents.
While the number of deaths involving accidents with drink-drivers has fallen from 1,500 a year in the Eighties, it has remained at about 540 a year for the past five years.