PEOPLE are being urged to designate a driver on nights out over the festive period in a bid to reduce the number of drink and drug driving incidents.

As the busiest time of the year for parties and impromptu drinks gets into full swing, campaign group Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) has joined forces with the police and fire services to encourage people to give the ‘gift of a lift’ to friends and family out drinking.

Drivers are also encouraged to watch out for pedestrians, particularly around pubs and clubs, as young people who are under the influence of drink and drugs are most at risk group of pedestrian road casualties.

The RSGB NE said despite overall drink and drug driving casualties falling by 17 per cent between 2014 and 2018, the number of fatalities and people seriously injured has not.

In 2014, 56 people were killed or seriously injured, and in 2018 the number was 71. In 2015, those figures peaked at 81.

Paul Watson, chairman of RSGB NE, said people are sometimes better at planning where to go, who with and what to wear than how they will get home after socialising.

He urged people to arrange a taxi beforehand, sort a lift or be the designated driver and stay sober and to look out for one another.

In the five years between 2014 and 2018, 1,537 people were injured or killed in collisions on North East roads that involved alcohol or drugs.

Statistics show that men are more likely to be involved in a drink/drug drive collision than women and 17 to 34-year-olds are most at risk.

Drivers involved in collisions whilst impaired are also likely to be fairly close to home when they occur.

Mr Watson added: “No one goes out with the intention of causing a collision, but it could easily happen if you are under the influence. Even if you don’t crash your car, you could be stopped by police, resulting in arrest, fines and possibly losing your licence. It’s not worth it.”

At the same time, police forces across the country are carrying out extra random roadside checks.

On Wednesday, day one of the campaign, officers from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit carried out around 30 breath tests and two drivers failed.

A man and a woman– both understood to have drank the night before– were arrested on suspicion of drink driving and taken to Durham City Police Station for further tests.

The man passed his secondary breath test and was released while the woman provided a blood sample which will be sent off for analysis.

Cleveland and Durham Road Policing Unit reminded motorists they could still be over the drink and drug drive limit the morning after a heavy session of partying.

It takes roughly one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave the body– with many drinks accounting for two or three units, such as beer and wine.

Temporary Strategic Roads Policing Inspector Darren Breslin said: “We want to appeal to drivers not to take the risk this Christmas and New Year.

“Drivers also need to be aware of the increased detection rate of drug driving; there has been a year on year increase in positive drug swipes throughout the country.

“Cleveland and Durham officers continue to take a positive approach to any person found drug driving, the risks involved with drug driving are no different from those who choose to drink and drive.”

And Steve Johnson, area manager prevention at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “Planning ahead for your journey is essential, don’t run the risk of being the next person we need to rescue from a road traffic collision. Make sure your vehicle is winter ready and that you’re alert and in an appropriate condition to drive.”