Throughout December and into the early part of next year, officers from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit will be out in force to target motorists who break the law.
The focus of this year's drink and drug driving campaign is to target drivers under the age of 25, who, according to Department for Transport figures, fail more breath tests (or refuse to provide a specimen) than any other age group, and those that drink alcohol or take drugs and drive their vehicle the next morning, whilst still under the affects.
A number of operations to stop check vehicles will be carried out, both in the morning and the evening, where drivers will be asked to provide a voluntary breath test. Officers will also target activities in areas known for drink-related collisions and drink/drug drive offenders. Advice and information will also be given regarding units of alcohol.
Temporary Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Jacqui Cheer, said: “Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have devastating consequences. Innocent road users can be seriously injured or even killed at the hands of a driver who is under the influence.
“We know that the vast majority of drivers would never intentionally drink and drive and will plan their Christmas nights out by leaving their car at home and using a taxi or having a designated driver for the evening, however, those same responsible drivers sometimes fail to recognise the risk associated with driving the morning after. You do not know how much alcohol is still in your system and it could have life-changing consequences if you choose to ignore the advice.”
Temporary Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton, said: “While the vast majority of drivers are sensible and perfectly safe on the roads, we know there remains a small number who are thoughtless, reckless and a menace to other people as well as themselves. For those irresponsible few, the gloves are off. We will actively target them and use all the means at our disposal, including unmarked police cars.
"This means anyone tempted to drive under the influence of drink or drugs will genuinely not know if the car behind them is a police vehicle – until it's too late."
Police will be breathalysing every driver involved in a road collision, as well as every driver they stop, who they suspect is over the limit.
In the last twelve months, over 13,000 motorists have been breathalysed on Cleveland and Durham’s roads. More than 850 (6.8%) of these drivers were either found to be over the drink drive limit or they refused to provide a specimen.
Between 2007 and 2011, there have been 1,085 casualties as a result of collisions involving drink drivers in the two Force areas. 28 people were killed as a result of these collisions and 189 people suffered serious injuries.
As in previous years, the campaign is backed by local road safety teams and Cleveland Fire Brigade.
Paul Watson, Chair of Road Safety GB (North East) and Road Safety Manager for Hartlepool Council, said: “There is no excuse for drink and drug driving, if people want to celebrate at Christmas they should leave the car at home and either book a taxi, stay overnight, or arrange for someone who is not drinking to drive.
“We are encouraging party goers to plan how they will travel the next morning, remembering that alcohol consumed at night may still affect their driving the next day. Drivers may feel OK but could still be unfit to drive and over the legal alcohol limit. Taking a shower, drinking coffee or taking other 'sobering up' antidotes will not help because it is impossible for the body to process alcohol any faster. It just takes time.
"Remember, the only safe drink is a soft drink."