Figures released by the Home Office* show that the number of roadside breath tests are at their lowest point since 2002. Just 285,380 roadside breath tests were conducted last year compared to 481,561 in 2002 and 322,769 in 2018.
Meanwhile, more than 2.2 million speeding fines were issued to drivers last year – an increase of 7.8% compared to 2018. Police also targeted careless driving and car occupants not wearing a seatbelt which have significantly increased between 2018 and 2019 (up 33.5% and 84.3% respectively).
By contrast, the number of fines issued for using a handheld mobile phone dropped by more than a quarter (26.5%).
Edmund King, AA president says; “It is worrying that drink driving tests are at their lowest point in 18 years. Regrettably, this only highlights the massive reduction in the number of specialist traffic officers on our roads.
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. More than two thirds (69%**) say it is unlikely they would be caught driving carelessly where they live, while two fifths (43%) say they could drive without insurance and feel they wouldn’t be caught.
“The AA believes that we should set a target of zero road deaths by the end of the decade, and can only reach that if a significant effort is made to meet that ambition. As well as more police, we’d like to see more road safety campaigns and road safety made part of the national curriculum in order to eliminate the levels of driver complacency.”
King continues; “We are pleased that a significant effort has been made to tackle people not wearing a seatbelt, as a distressingly high proportion of car occupants killed in collisions were found not to be wearing one.
“Likewise, the use of covert HGV’s is a contributory factor in the reduction of people using a hand held mobile phone behind the wheel. The recent announcement to close the loopholes around mobile phone use while driving will help too.”
“With several studies showing people drinking more alcohol since Covid struck, roadside tests should now be stepped up,” comments Hunter Abbott, managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense and a member of PACTS.
“But without more traffic police, testing will continue to spiral downwards.
“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.
“If in any doubt, drivers should self-test to ensure they’re completely clear of alcohol before getting behind the wheel”.
** AA Populus Driver Poll, November 2018. 20,410 respondents
***Department for Transport: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/reported-drinking-and-driving-ras51?utm_source=7b5f5a11-0cb7-4cce-ae52-79505f3290ad&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=daily#history