Drink driving figures rise despite festive crackdown by traffic police

DRINK driving during the festive period has risen by almost a quarter, with the number of people taking drugs and then getting behind the wheel also rising sharply, new police figures have revealed.

A total of 110 Scottish motorists were caught driving while over the legal alcohol limit during the third week of a seasonal crackdown by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), a 22 per cent increase on the 90 stopped during the same period last year.

A further 10 people were arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs - twice the figure for 2009 - and one person was reported for driving while judged to be impaired through alcohol, although no tests were carried out. Police have asked the courts to consider seizing the vehicles of four people under a forfeiture scheme brought in last year to tackle repeat offending.

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Last night, Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the institute of Advanced Motorists, said part of the problem was "Scotland's driving culture" where drink and drug drivers did not expect to be stopped by police.

"The biggest deterrent is fear of being caught," he said. "In countries like Sweden and Norway people expect to get stopped and caught. Here it is rare to get stopped and drivers think that if they keep to quiet back roads they'll be safe.

"A three-week campaign is one thing but what we need is more investment in high-profile policing to prevent this sort of behaviour in the first place.

Mr Greig added: "It's always disappointing when figures go up when we would hope that driving while under the influence is socially unacceptable.

"While it can be difficult to compare like-to-like figures without a detailed analysis, it is particularly worrying that even with an enforcement campaign the figures have gone up despite the bad weather.

Yesterday police repeated their message urging motorists not to drive if unfit to get behind the wheel.

Chief Superintendent Brian Anderson of Acpos, said: "As we come to the end of week three of this campaign, I am horrified that our figures are rising compared to the same period last year.

"Over a holiday period where there are more people on the road innocently visiting friends and relatives it is hard to understand why people would put their lives at risk by getting behind the wheel while unfit to do so. As we enter the final week of this campaign, I would remind all motorists that police forces across Scotland will continue to target drink and drug drivers on a daily basis and if appropriate request that their vehicle be seized.

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"The message must get out to this minority of drivers who continue to risk their lives and the lives of other road users. Don't risk it.Don't drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs."

Earlier in the campaign drink driving was down compared to last year, but levels rose during Christmas week.

All eight of Scotland's police forces are taking part in the national campaign, which started on 6 December and will run until 3 January. Increased road patrols have also been put into operation.

This year's drink drivers include a mother who was caught test-driving her child's quad bike on Christmas Day while over the legal drink drive limit.

The 31-year-old damaged parked vehicles and slightly injured herself in a collision in Coldingham in the Borders and was also charged with driving without a licence or insurance.

In Greenock, Inverclyde, they caught a 19-year-old who allegedly stole his father's car and crashed it while almost three times over the limit.

He was also charged with driving with a provisional licence and no insurance. Police in Lanarkshire stopped a man who allegedly stole an HGV from his employer's yard while more than three times over the limit.

He was also charged with disqualified driving. In Dundee a 78-year-old man was stopped while driving with no lights on and found to be almost twice the limit.