Roadside breath tests plunge to lowest levels on record

Roadside breath tests have fallen to their lowest level since records began.

New data shows that the number of drivers breathalysed by police fell by 12 per cent last year to the lowest level since 2002.

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Home Office figures show that in 2019, 285,380 roadside breath tests were carried out by police in England and Wales, down from 322,769 in 2018 and 57 per cent lower than the peak of 670,023 in 2009.

Of those tested, 17 per cent were found to be over the drink-drive limit - up from the 15 per cent who failed breath tests in 2018. The latest Department for Transport data also shows that the number of crashes involving a drink-driver increased by three per cent in 2018.

Observers say the reduction in traffic police is making enforcement harder and putting lives at risk (Photo: Shutterstock)

Observers have blamed the reduction in traffic police numbers for the falling number of test and warned that further cuts will lead to more casualties.

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A recent report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety (PACTS) showed that there was an 18 per cent reduction in the number of dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales between 2015 and 2019.

Hunter Abbott, a member of PACTS, commented: “The latest government figures show 8,860 people killed or injured on the roads due to drink driving. There’s a direct correlation between the increase in casualties and the decrease in law enforcement.

“With several studies showing people drinking more alcohol since Covid struck, roadside tests should now be stepped up. But without more traffic police, testing will continue to spiral downwards.”

AA president Edmund King warned that increasing reliance on enforcement cameras to catch law-breakers would not work with drink-driving.

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He 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."

The figures from the Police Powers and Procedures report also revealed that 2.3 million speeding fines were issued in 2019, up eight per cent on 2018, while fines for not wearing a seatbelt were up 85 per cent.