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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 13:16 GMT
Festive drink-driving rises
Drink drive figures
Christmas drink-driving has seen its sharpest increase for five years, despite widespread government advertising campaigns.

Out of more than 15,000 drivers breath-tested after accidents 8% were over the limit - an increase of almost 1% on the last festive season.

The rise has been blamed on persistent drink-drive offenders and a new breed of young motorists with no comprehension of the dangers of alcohol and driving.



Number of positive tests

LEAST
• City of London 0%
• Staffordshire 2%

MOST
• South Yorkshire 25.1%
• Hertfordshire 24.9%

Click here for full regional breakdown

The government said the figures for England and Wales, released by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), were disappointing and suggested that dramatic improvements over the last two decades were bottoming out.

Ministers are already considering giving police extra powers to deal with the hard core of persistent drink-drivers.

These would include being able to stop drivers without a reason if they suspect they have been drinking.

Though the rise in positive breath-tests is small, there are big variations from one police force to another.

Legal limits
35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine
In London almost 16% of those breathalysed were positive, almost double last year's figure.

But in Greater Manchester fewer than 6% were found to be over the limit, down from an already low figure last year.

A substantial core of "persistent drink-drive offenders" has been blamed for the increase by the chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, David Kenworthy.

Christmas drink drive campaign advertisement
The shocking messages are not getting through
Commenting on the figures for ACPO Road Policing, he said: "It is clear that despite considerable effort by government, police and other partners in road safety there remains a substantial core of persistent drink-drive offenders willing to put their own and others' lives at risk."

The RAC Foundation said the increase in positive breath tests may be due to "a substantial increase in the number of young people who are unaware of the dangers of alcohol and motoring".

RAC executive director Edmund King said road safety campaigns have not been heeded by younger motorists.

"Many road safety campaigners believe that the battle against drink-driving has been won, particularly with younger motorists," he said.

"Judging by the number of positive breath tests the assumption that drinking and driving has been made socially unacceptable seems to no longer hold water.

"This applies particularly among the very group who were thought to be most convinced of the evils of drink-driving - young motorists.

"If more lives are to be saved on our roads, perhaps it is now time to re-access the education and publicity campaigns on drink-driving to ensure that the message successfully reaches all motorists."

The police in England and Wales carried out 1247 positive breath tests following collisions - some 15% more than last year. These drivers amounted to 8% of those tested, a 1% increase on last year.

The South Yorkshire force recorded the highest proportion of positive breath tests (25.1%), followed by Hertfordshire with 24.9%.

The lowest result was in the City of London where no drink-drivers were caught, although only 24 were tested.

'Carnage'

Other areas with low numbers of positive tests included Staffordshire (2%), Lancashire (2.3%) and Lincolnshire (3.2%).


The government needs to reverse this carnage by investing in high-profile, year-round enforcement and more campaigns

Mary Williams
Brake
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has called on the government to introduce a new package of measures, including cutting the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

It also wants more use of rehabilitation courses for offenders and more high-profile publicity and education campaigns.

The road safety organisation, Brake, said the government needed to invest more in campaigns.

Chief executive Mary Williams OBE, said: "It is atrocious that crashes resulting from drink-driving have gone up, despite a decade of anti-drink-driving campaigns.

"The government needs to reverse this carnage by investing in high-profile, year-round enforcement and more campaigns."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Hall
"Today's national statistics show the sharpest rise for five years"
Mary Williams of the road safety organisation Brake
"I think the message simply is not getting through"
Sergeant Graham Finniss, Devon and Cornwall police
"It is obviously a very significant rise"
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