Motorists in St Helens are being warned to drive responsibly as police launch their annual summer crackdown on drink and drug use behind the wheel.
During last year’s month-long campaign, Merseyside Police arrested 245 people on suspicion of drink and drug-driving offences across the region.
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Of those, 119 were arrested for drink-drive offences such as failing a breath test or refusing to give one, while 126 drivers tested positive for drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.
Messages about being under the influence on the road are also still being ignored as between January and the end of March this year 551 people have been arrested for drug driving, and 283 for drink driving.
Inspector Kim Carter, from the force’s Roads Policing Unit said: “Throughout our summer campaign, Merseyside Police will be conducting numerous roadside operations and breath and drug testing hundreds of drivers across Merseyside.
"Last year’s figures demonstrate again that we now have more arrests for drug driving than drink driving. Both are serious offences and I can’t stress enough the potential danger you put yourself and others in if you get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
“Our summer campaign may be launching today but we remain committed to tackling drink and drug drivers all year round. It is incredibly important to remember that alcohol can remain in your system for many hours and you may still be over the limit the next day. If you are driving the following day, leaving it 12 hours before getting behind the wheel is advisable.
“Also, if you take drugs along with drinking alcohol it massively increases the effects on your body, making it even more dangerous to get behind the wheel. I would urge anyone thinking of taking such risks to stop and have a serious think about the consequences.
“In the last 12 months, five people have been killed in Merseyside by drivers who were drunk or had taken drugs. There are even more cases whereby people have suffered life changing injuries.
"I would appeal to anyone considering driving after taking drugs or drinking – your reaction time is vastly reduced when you have drunk alcohol or taken drugs. You may not see that pedestrian stepping out in front of you, or the other car pulling out of the give-way, but that will be no consolation should you be responsible for someone’s death. Please don’t take that risk, it is not worth it.”
Of those arrested for drink drive offences last year, 82 per cent were male and 18 per cent female with 55 per cent in the 25-49 age range.
For those stopped for drug driving offences 95 per cent were male and five per cent female, with 73 per cent were in the 25-49 age range. The majority of people were stopped between 11pm and 5am with 27 per cent stopped on a Sunday.
Paul Mountford, from the Road Safety Partnership, said: "Merseyside Police will continue to stop drivers, be it in the morning, afternoon or evening and carry out breath tests. My message is simple – if you choose to drink, do not take the car. The risks are enormous and simply not worth it. We need to ensure that drivers understand the principles of this campaign – that the only safe drink drive limit is zero.
"Anyone caught drink driving faces a twelve month driving ban and a fine of up to £5000. There is also the risk of losing their job and the added pain to their families.
"I’d like to remind drivers your ability to drive can be affected by even a modest amount of alcohol. Even if you are below the legal limit, alcohol still affects your judgement, placing you, your passengers and other road users at risk. You may be arrested for ‘drink driving’ even if you pass a breathalyser if the officer considers you to be unfit. "
“Since the introduction of the drug driving offence in March 2015, it is now an offence to drive whilst over the specified limit, set for 17 drugs including cannabis and cocaine, which is what the majority of people arrested for drug driving have used. The list of drugs also includes those found in some medicines.
“We will continue to carry out roadside impairment tests on drivers suspected to be impaired by drugs. However, we can additionally test drivers at the roadside using hand held and portable drug testing equipment and arrest if the result is positive. The simple presence of the drug may be sufficient to leave someone facing a driving ban and a significant fine.
"Those people who take prescribed medicines and who follow the instructions on the packaging or from their doctor should not have any need to worry and should continue to take their medicines. However, they should always read the instructions to check how the medicine may affect their driving. If in any doubt, they should check with their doctor/chemist. Exceeding the dosage can have a significant effect on their driving, placing themselves and others in danger and also at risk of arrest."
“The consequences of drink and drug driving can be catastrophic and we will remain vigilant throughout the summer months and the rest of 2019 to target individuals who put themselves and others at risk in this way.”
Anyone who knows or suspects someone of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should contact police on Twitter @MerPolCC, by ringing 101, calling the Roads Policing Unit on 0151 777 5747 or contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.