DRIVERS are being reminded of the dangers of driving under the influence this festive season as a police crackdown gets underway.

The annual winter drink and drug driving campaign – ran by the National Police Chief’s Council – will take place from Wednesday until early January and aims to target drivers who flout the law around Christmas and New Year time.

Officers from Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit and the Special Constabulary will use mass screenings of breath tests and drugs tests at the roadside to catch dangerous drivers and they will use intelligence to target known offenders.

Strategic Road Policing Inspector for CDSOU, Darren Breslin, said: “Drink and drug driving can have devastating consequences and we want to make sure everyone has fun safely over the Christmas period.

“We target people who commit this offence all year round but we will be out over the next few weeks actively looking for people who put themselves and others at risk by continuing to drink and drug drive.

“The idea is to educate as well as enforce so we can make sure we keep people safe over Christmas and we want to get that message across that if you’ve had a drink or taken drugs; don’t drive.”

Between 2016 and 2018 there were 12 fatal collisions across the two force areas involving drink and drug driving and a further 98 classed as serious.

Last year's campaign recorded the highest percentage rate of motorists testing positive, failed or refused since 2012 with 7.7 per cent of motorists failing a breath test and 58 per cent of drugs tests showing a positive result.

Across County Durham and Cleveland, the majority of offenders were men aged 25 and older while the majority of positive breath test results were collected from drivers using urban roads.

In 2018, 1,392 arrests were made across the two force areas for the offence of driving whilst impaired by alcohol and 739 drivers were arrested for driving whilst unfit through drugs.

Combining illegal drugs with alcohol is especially deadly– research shows that drivers who have consumed both are 23 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers.

As well as the impact of a collision; consequences for drink and drug drivers can include prison time, an unlimited fine and a driving ban and a criminal record.

NPCC Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: “It is extremely frustrating that some motorists still choose to drive under the influence of drink or drugs in the knowledge their actions could kill or seriously injure themselves or others.

“Drink and drug driving is completely unacceptable at any time and catching motorists who are prepared to take such a deplorable risk is a priority for every police force in the UK.

“Sadly the winter drink and drug driving campaign will result in many motorists being arrested and placed before the courts for these offences.

“My advice is the same as always; do not drink or drug drive, your actions could kill.”

To report suspected drink or drug drivers call the non-emergency police number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111.