Police cuts blamed for huge fall in number of roadside alcohol breath tests in Derbyshire

Police officers in Derbyshire carried out 76 per cent fewer alcohol breath tests on drivers last year than a decade previously, figures show.

But far from this being a sign that Derbyshire drivers are far better behaved than a decade ago when it comes to drink-driving, the AA said the record low number for roadside tests across England and Wales was down to police cuts meaning officers can’t carry out as many tests anymore.

Home Office figures show 2,899 breath tests were conducted by Derbyshire Police in 2019 – 76 per cent fewer than in 2009, when there were 12,024.

The number of tests reached its lowest in 2017, when there were 7,327.

The number of roadside breath tests in Derbyshire has fallen sharply

Across England and Wales, the number of roadside tests fell to 285,000 in 2019 – their lowest level since comparable records began in 2002.

This is down 12 per cent from the previous year and a reduction of 57 per cent from the peak of 670,000 tests in 2009.

Edmund King, AA president, blamed the ‘massive reduction in the number of specialist traffic officers’ for the reduction in testing.

He added said: “While cameras are a useful tool in helping police our roads, we cannot solely rely on them.

“A camera cannot stop a drink-driver, or pull over someone driving carelessly, so having more cops in cars will help eliminate poor and dangerous driving.

“The lack of roads police has led to drivers thinking they can get away with certain offences.”

A recent report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety found that the number of officers dedicated to roads policing in England and Wales fell by nearly a fifth between 2015 and 2019.

The latest Department for Transport figures show there were 5,890 crashes on Britain’s roads involving at least one driver over the alcohol limit in 2018 - a figure which has stayed largely the same for the past six years.

Simon Williams, RAC roads safety spokesman, said: “These are extremely worrying figures and will only further arouse suspicion from drivers that road traffic laws are simply not being properly enforced.”

Police can make someone take a breath test if they suspect they have been driving, or trying to drive, with alcohol in their body.

They can also order one if the driver has committed a traffic offence while their vehicle is moving, or if they have been involved in an accident.

It is a crime to refuse a breath test, unless the driver has a reasonable excuse, such as a medical condition.

Home Office data also showed that three tests were carried out in Derbyshire for every 1,000 people – one of the lowest across England and Wales.

The Government said drivers being more aware of the law and police prosecuting under more serious offences could be some of the reasons why numbers are falling.

A spokeswoman added: “Enforcement is only one way in which we ensure our roads remain amongst the safest in the world, with a robust regulator system to ensure drivers are properly trained and vehicles are all adequately maintained.

“How roads policing is undertaken and how available resources are deployed is the responsibility of individual chief officers and police and crime commissioners.”