THE increasing trend of drivers being caught driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is a concerning issue that poses a significant risk to both road users and pedestrians.

Last week the results of the Christmas drink/drug driving campaign laid bare the staggering number of drivers prepared to get behind the wheel of their vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A decision that puts not only their lives but the lives of other innocent people in danger.

Operation Limit involved 44 police forces across England and Wales and saw more than 65,000 vehicles stopped. Worryingly close to 50 per cent of drivers tested for drugs, tested positive. The majority of those failing these drug tests (84 per cent) were male.

Research has shown that there is a pressing need for a radical overhaul of existing legislation and increased investment in roads policing. We need to increase the risk of drink/drug drivers to deter them from driving on our roads. As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners drink/drug driving lead, I have been calling for more investment in roads policing to enable officers to do more roadside testing and awareness raising campaigns.

Proactive targeted enforcement can act as a strong deterrent that can make individuals think twice before driving under the influence of drink or drugs. By increasing the risk of drivers being caught, along with tougher penalties for breaking the law, individuals may be less inclined to drive under the influence of drink/drugs which will make our roads safer and save precious lives.

Along with the Roads Policing Lead, Chief Constable Jo Shiner, I would like to see the law changed so those testing positive for drink/drugs risk losing their licence at the roadside or very soon after. Far too many people who have failed these tests are allowed to continue to drive until their case is heard at court and their licence is revoked!

We have also discussed the idea of introducing random testing of those taking driving lessons or those about to take their driving test and the introduction of much tougher sentences for drink/drug drivers who kill or seriously injure their victims.

Is it not about time those testing positive for drink/drugs pay the full cost of these tests, so our roads policing teams can invest in more road safety campaigns and support victims and victims’ families? Our officers not only enforce the law, many volunteer as family liaison officers and support families through the trauma of losing loved ones and the stressful journey through the criminal justice system whilst seeking justice for those killed or seriously injured by dangerous drivers.

Enforcement alone is not the answer. Much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of drink/drug driving. This should include national public health campaigns and mandated education courses similar to the speed awareness course to deter motorists from drink/drug driving.

By working together to raise awareness, enforcing laws, and supporting responsible behaviour, we can make our roads safer and achieve ‘Project 0’, every day without a road death! In the meantime, I will continue to push for roads policing to be given the high priority it deserves, and secure the necessary funding and legislation we needs to make our roads safer for all.

  • Joy Allen is the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham