Breath tests set to double in December

Drivers are being warned they are more than twice as likely to be breath-tested in December than any other month.

As the UK heads into an unconventional festive season, Home Office data suggests that motorists are far more likely to be stopped and breathalysed by police than at any other time of the year, and highlights huge differences in enforcement around the country.

According to Home Office figures, in December last year, police stopped 48,804 motorists on suspicion of drink-driving. The average for the other 11 months across England and Wales was 23,043.

Of those stopped in December 2019, a total of 5,210 drivers either tested positive or refused to give a sample – a failure rate of 11 per cent.

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The figures, obtained by home breathalyser firm AlcoSense, revealed huge regional variations.

In North Wales 3,964 motorists were tested last December, whereas in Wiltshire it was just 31.

There were also big discrepancies in the percentage of motorists failing their breath test.

In Northamptonshire, the county with the highest number of tests in England (2,957), the failure rate was just two per cent, whereas in Cambridgeshire, where 1,070 tests were conducted, 30 per cent of drivers were over the limit.

Rates of testing varied dramatically between police force areas (Photo: Shutterstock)

The news comes as the Royal College of Psychiatrists reports a huge increase in alcohol misuse during lockdown. It estimates that in June, more than 8.4 million people in England were drinking at higher-risk levels, up from 4.8m in February.

Drink-driving limits vary in different parts of the UK but the offence carries serious penalties, ranging from a fine and driving ban to up to 14 years in prison for causing a death while driving over the limit.

In 2019, there were 8,860 injuries and 240 deaths on the roads where a driver was over the limit.

Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense commented: “We might be going to fewer Christmas parties this year, but several studies show that people have been drinking more alcohol during lockdown.

“The increase has been driven by job uncertainty and pandemic anxiety, fuelled by the rise in at-home drinking where measures are more generous than a pub or restaurant.

“This trend makes it more likely that people may get behind the wheel and drive with alcohol still in their system the next morning. Even a small amount of alcohol slows reaction time, inhibits judgement and reduces concentration – increasing the likelihood of accidents."