Police condemn 'hard core' of risk takers: Sharp increase in road accidents over Christmas

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The Independent Online
DRINKING and driving caused a sharp increase in the number of road accidents over the Christmas and New Year season, compared to the same period last year, police said yesterday.

Despite a small drop in the number of positive breathalyser tests, the number of accidents rose by more than six per cent from 4,958 to 5,258, according to official figures released yesterday.

Warning that police would continue to be vigilant throughout the year, David Williams, the Chief Constable of Surrey and secretary of the traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: 'People are still drinking and driving - taking risks with the lives of other people as well as their own livelihood.'

Mr Williams said he was disappointed that encouraging figures for the first three days

of the annual Department of Transport and police campaign in England and Wales, which had shown a decrease in both accidents and positive tests, had not continued throughout the holiday period.

He said: 'I cautiously welcomed the first three days figures and it appears that I was right to do so.

'I am disappointed that the encouraging figures of the first three days of the campaign, when people seemed to be heeding the message of not drinking and driving was not continued over the entire Christmas holiday.'

Although the Department of Transport's advertising campaign began on 7 December, the police campaign operated from 19 December until 6am yesterday. Scottish figures show that 975 motorists failed the breath test out of 52,477 tested.

The figures show that during the period, 60,081 motorists were breathalysed, an increase of 1.7 on the previous year, resulting in 4,125 positive tests - a 2.9 per cent drop, to 6.8 per cent of those tested. The 1992 campaign figures were low because of the large number of officers on anti-terrorist duties in many forces.

The percentage of motorists who register positive has remained at around the 7 per cent level for the past three years, leading the police to argue that special measures must be taken to deal with the 'hard core' of drivers who continue to drink in spite of the risks. Police say such drivers are often middle aged, middle class businessmen who lead otherwise respectable lives.

Senior police officers have repeatedly called for new powers to allow random testing and to be able to withhold the licences of repeat serious offenders as a condition of bail before court appearances.

The detailed figures show that some forces dramatically increased the number of tests carried out - from 5,126 to 7591 in Greater Manchester and from 919 to 1,400 in Wiltshire - with consequent proportionate increases in positive tests. But the pattern did not hold good for Bedfordshire, where a rise from 702 to 965 tests led to a small drop in the number of positives.

Two forces which have been hit by financial crises, Avon and Somerset and South Wales, both reduced the number of tests dramatically, again with proportionate falls in the numbers of positive tests.

However, Derbyshire, a force which has been formally declared inefficient by the Inspectorate of Constabulary, more than doubled the number of tests, from 807 to 2,088; but this only increased the number of positives from 61 to 73, while the number of accidents remained static.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Drink-drive figures for England and Wales during Christmas campaign ----------------------------------------------------------------- Region Total Positive Injury breath breath accidents tests tests (Figures in brackets refer to 1992) Avon and Somerset 317 (514) 49 (85) 102 (150) Bedfordshire 965 (702) 54 (59) 57 (85) Cambridgeshire 1700 (1558) 53 (39) 89 (81) Cheshire 1124 (826) 154 (78) 96 (69) City of London 236 (86) 41 (9) 1 (2) Cleveland 474 (621) 48 (52) 49 (33) Cumbria 632 (757) 46 (33) 64 (29) Derbyshire 2088 (807) 73 (61) 93 (92) Devon and Cornwall 1172 (1263) 85 (119) 124 (135) Dorset 541 (626) 41 (62) 86 (41) Durham 742 (1015) 71 (67) 41 (35) Dyfed-Powys 661 (776) 35 (41) 27 (27) Essex 2786 (2754) 119 (105) 144 (171) Gloucester 367 (408) 35 (25) 61 (36) Greater Manchester 7591 (5126) 350 (297) 324 (299) Gwent 906 (734) 55 (34) 38 (24) Hampshire 2314 (1982) 114 (134) 137 (137) Hertfordshire 646 (428) 66 (49) 73 (68) Humberside 522 (525) 76 (65) 78 (87) Kent 1609 (2029) 99 (109) 166 (153) Lancashire 1222 (1423) 104 (127) 141 (153) Leicestershire 1356 (1086) 76 (54) 62 (59) Lincolnshire 1034 (941) 55 (49) 58 (51) Merseyside 867 (566) 105 (130) 226 (230) Metropolitan 8792 (12379) 461 (804) 729 (789) Norfolk 643 (917) 27 (35) 69 (66) Northamptonshire 645 (728) 43 (33) 36 (41) Northumbria 494 (383) 108 (118) 138 (153) North Wales 1599 (1284) 97 (76) 80 (32) North Yorks 730 (665) 52 (38) 112 (63) Nottinghamshire 448 (342) 67 (80) 131 (109) South Wales 916 (1953) 98 (149) 119 (110) South Yorks 920 (831) 121 (95) 59 (62) Staffordshire 560 (505) 76 (69) 135 (127) Suffolk 751 (638) 35 (68) 70 (59) Surrey 1666 (1188) 98 (43) 136 (96) Sussex 844 (741) 95 (71) 123 (122) Thames Valley 3798 (3856) 137 (131) 139 (184) Warwickshire 304 (205) 37 (24) 65 (53) West Mercia 948 (1184) 65 (98) 133 (103) West Midlands 1500 (1160) 246 (205) 344 (278) West Yorks 1215 (1638) 180 (188) 190 (223) Wiltshire 1436 (919) 78 (40) 113 (41) Total exc Met 51289 (46690) 3664 (3444) 4529 (4169) Total inc Met 60081 (59069) 4125 (4248) 5258 (4958) -----------------------------------------------------------------

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