Police chief condemns 'worrying' rise in drug driving

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More than 9,000 motorists were arrested in England and Wales for drink-driving during the festive period, police revealed today.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said there were 133,136 drivers tested over four weeks, of whom just under 7 per cent tested positive (9,275).

The proportion of motorists found to be over the limit after an accident was 8.6 per cent of those tested, or 1,344, slightly down from 8.75 per cent last year.

For the first time, Acpo revealed how many drivers had been arrested for drug-driving during Christmas and New Year.

Officers administered "fit to drive" roadside tests on 540 motorists suspected of being impaired by illegal drugs, leading to the arrest of 178 people, or 33 per cent of those tested.

Acpo said the figures showed that drivers continued to drive under the influence of drink and drugs despite the "substantial and well-publicised risk" to themselves, pedestrians and other road users.

It was the first time Acpo has published the total number of breath tests administered - normally the organisation only releases the number of tests after a collision.

The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, Meredydd Hughes, who is Acpo road spokesman, said: "Despite more than 40 years of campaigns to warn of the dangers of drink driving, some drivers continue to consider themselves above the law, putting themselves and other road users at risk by drinking and driving.

"There are no excuses for this behaviour. If people are confused about the amount of alcohol they can consume before driving, the advice is simple - do not drink at all if you are planning to drive."

The arrest of more than 9,000 motorists showed offenders should "expect to be caught and brought to justice", he added.

Mr Hughes said the 33 per cent of positive impairment tests for drugs was "worrying".

The number of people prepared to get behind the wheel while on drugs was "increasing", particularly among young people, he said.

"Driving impaired under the influence of drugs is no more acceptable than drink driving and will not be tolerated," said the chief constable.

"People considering driving whilst under the influence of either drink or drugs should be aware that this police crackdown is not just for Christmas - it's for life."

The drug-driving test involves officers assessing a person's ability to drive and is not a chemical test for the presence of specific substances.

Official figures published last September showed the number of people who died in drink-drive related road accidents rose slightly in 2004 to 590, up 10 on the previous 12 months.