Fall in breath tests on Lancashire's roads

Police cuts blamed for reduction in people tested for drink driving

Thursday, 19th November 2020, 7:00 am

Police officers in Lancashire carried out 68 per cent fewer alcohol breath tests on drivers last year than a decade previously, figures show.

The AA said the decline in roadside tests across England and Wales was “worrying” and blamed police cuts for the record low number.

Home Office figures show 12,733 breath tests were conducted by Lancashire Police in 2019 – 68 per cent fewer than in 2009, when there were 39,921.

Office figures show 12,733 breath tests were conducted by Lancashire Police in 2019

Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to provide 2,004 – 16 per cent of all tests.

The number of tests last year was also the lowest over the entire 11-year period.

Across England and Wales, the number of roadside tests fell to 285,000 in 2019 – their lowest level since comparable records began in 2002.

This is down 12 per cent from the previous year and a reduction of 57 per cent from the peak of 670,000 tests in 2009.

Across the two nations, motorists refused or failed 47,223 – 17 per cent of all tests, which was the highest rate since 2005.

AA president Edmund King blamed the “massive reduction in the number of specialist traffic officers” for the reduction in testing.

He added said: “While cameras are a useful tool in helping police our roads, we cannot solely rely on them.

“A camera cannot stop a drink-driver, or pull over someone driving carelessly, so having more cops in cars will help eliminate poor and dangerous driving.

“The lack of roads police has led to drivers thinking they can get away with certain offences.”

A recent report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety found that the number of officers dedicated to roads policing in England and Wales fell by nearly a fifth between 2015 and 2019.

The latest Department for Transport figures show there were 5,890 crashes on Britain’s roads involving at least one driver over the alcohol limit in 2018 - a figure which has stayed largely the same for the past six years.

In response to the Home Office data, RAC roads safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “These are extremely worrying figures and will only further arouse suspicion from drivers that road traffic laws are simply not being properly enforced.”

Police can make someone take a breath test if they suspect they have been driving, or trying to drive, with alcohol in their body.

They can also order one if the driver has committed a traffic offence while their vehicle is moving, or if they have been involved in an accident.

It is a crime to refuse a breath test, unless the driver has a reasonable excuse, such as a medical condition.

The Home Office data also showed that eight tests were carried out in Lancashire for every 1,000 people – above the average, of six, across England and Wales.

The Government said drivers being more aware of the law and police prosecuting under more serious offences could be some of the reasons why numbers are falling.

A spokeswoman added: “Enforcement is only one way in which we ensure our roads remain amongst the safest in the world, with a robust regulator system to ensure drivers are properly trained and vehicles are adequately maintained.

“How roads policing is undertaken and how available resources are deployed is the responsibility of individual chief officers and police and crime commissioners.”