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Express & Star comments: Are police cuts impacting drink-drive crackdown?

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

In recent years repeated police campaigns have striven to drive home the message that drinking and driving is criminally irresponsible and potentially lethal.

Just over 8,907 breath tests were conducted by West Midlands Police in 2018

These have had success in making drinking and driving less socially acceptable, whereas in the bad old days there was a feeling among some offenders that it was a bit of a lark.

But new figures raise a troubling question – are our roads becoming an increasingly safe space for the drink-drivers as a consequence of policing cuts?

That is the suggestion from the road safety charity Brake in the light of statistics which show that last year, the number of alcohol tests performed by police in those forces across England and Wales which provided data fell to a record low.

Brake believes a squeeze on police budgets has left police forces without the resources to do checks on suspected drink-drivers.

In our region, there is a strikingly mixed picture.

In the West Mercia patch, the number of breath tests last year was the lowest since 2007, and in Dyfed-Powys the lowest since 2006.

In Staffordshire, the Home Office statistics show a 15-year low in the number of breath tests.

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However, in the West Midlands, the number of breath tests was more than double when compared to 2009.

So whatever is going on seems to be driven by a variety of factors, and Brake’s conviction that “savage cuts” to police numbers are behind it needs to be examined critically to see how the evidence stacks up.

A low level of breath testing may not be related to policing numbers, but to the way a force strategically chooses to fight drink-driving, how it chooses to target its resources, and even perhaps the level of success it has had in making in-roads into the problem through its anti drink-driving campaigns in raising public awareness and ensuring compliance.

While we should be cautious about jumping to conclusions based on these figures, there is an inescapable fact – people still put their lives, and the lives of others, in danger and the battle against drink-driving is a long way from being won.

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