Police renew plea for random breath testing

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The Independent Online
TWO CHIEF constables yesterday repeated calls for police to be allowed to conduct random breath tests.

The aim is to tackle persistent drink-drivers who refuse to respond to the annual Christmas and New Year campaign.

Figures released yesterday showed that although the proportion of motorists giving positive breath tests over the holiday period this year remained the same - just over 7 per cent - the number of road accidents involving injury rose by 6 per cent.

Police arrested drink-drivers at a rate of more than 300 a day over the Christmas period. Tests on 4,248 motorists in England and Wales between 19 December and 1 January were positive.

Walter Girven, chief constable of Wiltshire and chairman of the traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers said that the figures were 'unacceptable' and gave 'no cause for comfort whatsoever'. It was difficult to say whether the increase in accidents was due to drunken drivers or the bad weather.

Mr Girven said figures for the number of positive tests had remained at the same level for recent years, which underlined the belief of police and Department of Transport analysts that a 'hard core' of motorists continue to ignore the publicity campaigns.

'The ability of the police to stop and check drivers at any time would be an obvious deterrent,' he said. Repeat or serious offenders should be held in custody before being brought before a rapidly convened court and deprived of their licences at that point rather than when the case came to be dealt with.

Anti-terrorist operations reduced the number of breath tests during the 14-day campaign. This year also saw the most costly and dramatic Government anti-drink-driving advertising campaign.

The figures released show that police in England and Wales conducted 59,069 tests, a drop of 8 per cent from last year's figure.

Almost all police forces showed a decrease in the number of tests carried out and a consequent reduction in positive results.

In Avon and Somerset, total tests dropped from 1,173 to 514 and the number that proved positive from 107 to 85.

In Greater Manchester the number of tests increased from 4,711 to 5,126, although positive results fell to 297 from 350, while in Leicestershire the number of tests dropped from 1,216 to 1,086, halving the total of positive results from 96 to 54.

In London the number of tests remained about the same but positive results dropped from 835 to 804. The large towns and cities of West Midlands and West Yorkshire also showed a fall in positive results - from 251 to 205 and 240 to 188 respectively.

Last night, Labour's Andrew MacKinley and the Conservative backbencher Alan Haselhurst, both members of the all-party Transport Select Committee expressed disappointment at the figures and said they would be tabling Commons questions to the Roads Minister, Kenneth Carlisle, calling for tougher penalties.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Drink drive figures for England and Wales during Christmas campaign ----------------------------------------------------------------- Region Total Positive Injury breath breath accidents tests tests (Figures in brackets refer to 1991) ----------------------------------------------------------------- Avon and Somerset 514 (1173) 85 (107) 150 (65) Bedfordshire 702 (479) 59 (60) 85 (42) Cambridgeshire 1558 (936) 39 (38) 81 (49) Cheshire 826 (903) 78 (97) 69 (96) City of London 86 (111) 9 (10) 2 (5) Cleveland 621 (898) 52 (87) 33 (58) Cumbria 757 (689) 33 (61) 29 (46) Derbyshire 807 (674) 61 (49) 92 (90) Devon and Cornwall 1263 (1244) 119 (114) 135 (97) Dorset 626 (422) 62 (42) 41 (36) Durham 1015 (710) 67 (77) 35 (46) Dyfed-Powys 776 (711) 41 (54) 27 (46) Essex 2754 (2129) 105 (124) 171 (133) Gloucester 408 (493) 25 (46) 36 (42) Greater Manchester 5126 (4711) 297 (350) 299 (239) Gwent 734 (849) 34 (47) 24 (25) Hampshire 1982 (1958) 134 (149) 137 (112) Hertfordshire 428 (606) 49 (62) 68 (70) Humberside 525 (984) 65 (91) 87 (96) Kent 2029 (2175) 109 (120) 153 (89) Lancashire 1423 (1347) 127 (146) 153 (171) Leicestershire 1086 (1216) 54 (96) 59 (56) Lincolnshire 941 (1063) 49 (33) 51 (71) Merseyside 566 (1151) 130 (145) 230 (244) Metropolitan 12379 (12347) 804 (835) 789 (844) Norfolk 917 (3486) 35 (59) 66 (63) Northamptonshire 728 (778) 33 (35) 41 (48) Northumbria 383 (533) 118 (122) 153 (196) North Wales 1284 (1824) 76 (76) 32 (43) North Yorks 665 (1175) 38 (69) 63 (72) Nottinghamshire 342 (609) 80 (79) 109 (124) South Wales 1953 (2035) 149 (146) 110 (123) South Yorks 831 (1098) 95 (150) 62 (56) Staffordshire 505 (932) 69 (82) 127 (100) Suffolk 638 (896) 68 (50) 59 (56) Surrey 1188 (1721) 43 (83) 96 (106) Sussex 741 (806) 71 (102) 122 (87) Thames Valley 3856 (2855) 131 (154) 184 (123) Warwickshire 205 (188) 24 (33) 53 (43) West Mercia 1184 (939) 98 (99) 103 (89) West Midlands 1160 (1344) 205 (251) 278 (215) West Yorks 1638 (1886) 188 (240) 223 (227) Wiltshire 919 (1034) 40 (51) 41 (42) Total exc Met 46690 (51771) 3444 (4086) 4169 (3837) Total inc Met 59069 (64118) 4248 (4921) 4958 (4681) -----------------------------------------------------------------

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