Avon and Somerset Police arrested 61 drivers for driving under the influence of drink and / or drugs as part of a national policing operation, aimed at reducing fatal and serious Road Traffic Collisions (RTCs) and protecting other road users, which ran between 21 and 27 August.
This was a 20 per cent increase on the number of arrests made during the same week in 2022, despite police warnings and reminders that there is no safe way to drive under the influence of drink or drugs. Drink driving accounted for 40 of the offences, and drug driving for 21.
Patrols were carried out by roads policing, neighbourhood officers and special constables, whose efforts were supported by the public with numerous reports of people drink or drug driving submitted by telephone and via the Avon and Somerset Police website.
On Sunday 27 September, several 999 calls were made by concerned motorists reporting a van driving erratically on the M5 near junction 20. When stopped by officers, the driver was seen holding a mobile phone and appeared to be on a call. He was breathalysed, arrested and subsequently charged with using a handheld mobile device whilst driving a motor vehicle on a road and driving a motor vehicle when alcohol level was above the limit.
A 12-week-old cocker spaniel puppy who was being transported in the vehicle was taken into the care of a local vet overnight while his owner was held in custody.
In addition to drink and drug drive offences, the operation also resulted in several other road related and criminal offences being detected and dealt with, including speeding, driving without a licence or insurance, illegal drugs possession and going equipped to steal.
In 2021, a third of RTCs in Avon and Somerset had a drink and/or drug factor. They involved the deaths of 12 people, all of whom had families, friends and loved ones whose lives will be forever impacted.
Chief Inspector Rob Cheeseman, Head of Road Policing and Road Safety at Avon and Somerset Police said: “In a single week, 61 drivers have been taken off the road before they could cause harm through drink or drug driving.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal, it’s a reckless and dangerous choice that puts lives at risk. The consequences of such decisions can be catastrophic, causing irreversible harm and heartache to families and loved ones.
“As we head into the autumn, we are not easing up on our campaign against drink or drug drivers – keeping our roads safe is our priority every day of the year.
“I am grateful for the support of the general public who are helping us to target offenders by sharing information when they suspect drink or drug driving is happening. By doing this, you are helping us to reinforce the message that getting behind the wheel while under the influence is never acceptable. Together we are keeping the roads of Avon and Somerset safer.”
Drivers risk up to six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a substantial driving ban if they are caught driving while above the legal limit. Causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
During this summer’s operation, drivers in the 35-44 age group accounted for around a third (20) of arrests, followed by 25-34-year-olds (19) and under-25-year-olds (15 arrests). 83 per cent of all those arrested were male.
Information about drink/drug drivers can be reported online at www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report or by calling 101 (always 999 in an emergency and if someone is currently driving under the influence of drink or drugs). Reports can also be made anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Independent alcohol advice, information, and tools to help people make better choices about their drinking can be found at www.drinkaware.co.uk