Cambridgeshire police officers carried out 2,000 fewer breath tests compared to a decade ago, new figures have revealed.
Home Office statistics show that 8,702 breath tests were conducted by Cambridgeshire Constabulary in 2018 – around 2,000 fewer than in 2009, the first year with comparable data.
Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to do 3,156 – 36 per cent of all tests.
Road safety charity Brake says the decline in the number of tests carried out is symptomatic of “savage cuts” to police numbers, and is calling for better funding and a zero tolerance drink-drive limit.
However, Cambridgeshire police said they were concentrating on ‘quality over quantity’ with the tests.
Inspector Richard Barker said: “Although fewer breathalyser tests were carried out in Cambridgeshire in 2018 compared to 2009, when looking at the bigger picture it really is a matter of quality over quantity. Of the 10,680 tests carried out in 2009, 8.9 per cent were positive or were refused. In contrast, 36.3 per cent of the 8,702 tests carried out in 2018 were positive or refused. We have made better use of resources and by more effectively targeting the use of breathalyser tests have been able to detect more drink drive offenders.
“We continue to work hard with our partners to raise public awareness about the dangers of drink driving and next month marks the start of our annual drink drive campaign when our officers will be out in force, proactively tackling this important issue. Should anyone have information about someone drink or drug driving, they are strongly encouraged to report it to the police on 101 or on 999 in an emergency.”
Meanwhile, Department for Transport figures show that drink-driving contributed to 73 accidents attended by officers in Cambridgeshire last year.
Brake says slashed budgets have left police forces less able to do checks on potentially dangerous drink-drivers.
“Couple that with the fact that the number of positive breath tests increased, and it shows that drink-driving remains a serious issue on our roads,” a spokesman for the charity added.
“Brake is calling for the Government to implement a zero tolerance drink-drive limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe, and increase investment in national roads policing to provide the police with the resources they need to tackle the menace of drink-driving.”
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said that while the crime is less socially acceptable than in the past, the battle has not yet been won.
He added: “More road traffic police officers enforcing laws and more breath tests would certainly be welcome, but this should be accompanied by high-profile awareness campaigns.
“The advice to drivers is simple – if you are going out and plan to consume any alcohol whatsoever, leave your vehicle at home and make alternative travel arrangements.”
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.
A Home Office spokesman said a fall in the number of tests could be down to various factors, including increased awareness of the law, and police prosecuting drivers under more serious offences, or choosing other enforcement methods such as education courses.
He added: “We are giving police the tools they need, including recruiting 20,000 new police officers over the next three years, and making it easier for them to use stop and search powers.”
Cambridgeshire police operates a dedicated, confidential hotline for members of the public to report those driving under the influence of drink and drugs.
The hotline - 0800 032 0845 - is available 24/7, and gives people the opportunity to supply the police with information to help reduce the number of drink drivers on our roads.
For more information about drink driving, the law and the dangers it can cause, visit: https://www.cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Road-safety/Drink-drug-driving