Merseyside Police has become the first force in England, Wales and Scotland to record more than 2,000 drug drive arrests in a calendar year, after figures released today (January 15).
They recorded a total of 2,201 arrests in 2019, which is an increase of 19% from 1,630 in 2018.
1,105 of these arrests were for the use of cannabis; 653 for use of cocaine; 213 for both cannabis and cocaine; and a small number for people who took other drugs or failed to provide a specimen.
There was also an increase in drink driving arrests recorded in Merseyside in 2019, a total of 1,383 (an increase of 8% from 1,278 in 2018).
During this year’s Christmas drink and drug drive campaign, a total of 117 arrests were made for drink driving, and 150 arrests for drug driving.
Drug driving figures have continued to increase locally and nationally following a change in legislation in March 2015, which makes it easier for the police to catch and convict drug drivers. In 2014, just 9 people were arrested per month compared to 168 per month in 2019.
It is now an offence to drive with certain drugs above a specified level in your blood - just as it is with drink driving. Seventeen legal and illegal drugs are covered by the law, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine. The limits for all illegal drugs are extremely low – taking even a very small amount of an illegal drug could put you over the limit.
Through the year, those arrested have included people working in the building industry, taxi and coach driver and food and goods delivery.
Paul Mountford, Casualty Reduction Officer with our Safer Roads Unit said: "These figures highlight the pro-activity of our officers in detecting drink and drug drivers, and should act as a real deterrent to anyone considering taking such reckless and unnecessary risks.
“But let's be clear: 2,000 plus arrests is not a cause for any celebration, but an opportunity to pause and reflect on what remains a significant problem across the country, one which endangers the lives of all other road users and pedestrians, and which needs to be socially unacceptable to everyone. We all have a part to play in this.
“Ignorance about drug driving laws is no defence, neither is an insistence that your driving isn't affected by a small amount of cannabis.
"Despite what people might feel, we know from experience that any amount of alcohol or drugs in a driver's system significantly affects their awareness, reflexes and assessment of hazards. The consequences can be absolutely devastating to the life of the driver caught, and anyone else unfortunate enough to come across them on the roads.
“From losing your licence; potentially losing your job and income; massive insurance costs; being refused entry to foreign countries; through to the unimaginable tragedy of taking someone's life: there is simply no justification for risking it all to drive home under the influence.
“The laws on drug driving have been around long enough now for people to understand that we can and will prosecute those people who have drugs in their system. We've stopped and caught more than 2,000 people; don't think we won't catch you.
“I also would appeal to the many companies and organisations in Merseyside to consider the safety and welfare of their own staff. What their staff do in their own time is their business.
"Alcohol and drugs can remain in the body for several hours and can continue to affect a person, often in work-time when they are driving or operating machinery. They should contact the Safer Roads Team at Merseyside Police about how they can keep their staff safe and in the workplace.
“Even if you are lucky enough to avoid an accident or getting caught, you're still actively contributing to other harm and risk on the streets of Merseyside. People who buy and use cannabis, cocaine and other drugs are funding serious violent crime across the county, from serious assaults, knife crime, gun crime and murder.
“The vast majority of violent crime on our streets is the result of drug disputes, between people who sell to those who then go on to wreak havoc on our streets with their impaired driving.
“We want people who suspect someone is drink or drug driving to share our disgust that someone could be so reckless on the roads, and share our determination to reduce these risks. People often criticise the police for using roads policing fines as a money-making device, but this isn't the case. We all want to get to a point where drink and drug driving is no longer a concern to anyone. Our priority is saving lives and making the roads safer.
“Serious and fatal collisions happen as a result of drink, drugs, use of phones and speeding, and all could affect you, or your loved ones. Help us make our roads as safe as we possibly can; challenge unacceptable behaviour, report your concerns, and in future years we can share the success of falling numbers of arrests and most importantly, fewer people killed and seriously injured on the roads."
If you suspect someone you know is driving under the influence of drink or drugs, do the right thing and contact @MerPolCC, 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
You can also follow the Roads Policing Unit @MerPolTraffic and the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership @Merseysidersp on Twitter for advice and updates.