For the first time ever Kent police have set up static road checks to catch drivers under the influence of drink or drugs.
The static check points will be set up at carefully chosen locations around the county to support the summer drink and drug driving campaign.
People are used to the annual Christmas drink drive campaign but this is new and probably unexpected. Last Christmas the court process was speeded up significantly so that drink drivers were quickly off the road if they pleaded guilty. That was the objective and it seemed to work.
Summer brings BBQ and late outside drinking in a relaxed manner and I think people forget themselves. It’s the same problems as Christmas with people underestimating how much they drink and how long it takes the alcohol to get out of their system. Late nights drinking and early morning driving is a recipe for disaster. This is effectively the arrival of a second blitz and I would expect that it’s here to stay.
Vehicles will be selected for on the spot tests based upon automatic number plate recognition, evidence of impaired driving or if offences are observed.
Drivers will be pulled over if they commit an offence or if the officers on duty suspect that their driving may be impaired. They will be subject to breath tests to check for alcohol and Field Impairment Tests (FIT) if drug use is suspected. Offenders will be fined or arrested and charged.
It makes no real difference if its drink or drugs; police are targeting behaviour. There has also been another change. More drivers convicted of driving with excess alcohol or unfit through drugs (or refusing to give samples) being placed by DVLA into a High Risk Category thereby making it much more difficult to get licences back without medicals.
The campaign aims to increase the conviction rate by increasing the likelihood of an offender being detected as well as to educate drivers, reassure the public and collate data on driver behaviour.
Of course the overriding aims of such campaigns are to reduce the incidence of death and injury associated with drink and drug driving. In 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available, 9,990 people were injured in accidents where someone driving was over the drink drive limit. 280 people were killed in such accidents, and that’s 15% of all road fatalities and a 12% increase on the year before. In addition 1,290 people suffered serious injuries (an increase of 3.6%) and 8,430 people suffered slight injuries (up 3%).
In Kent alone 2157 people were arrested for excess breath alcohol levels in 2012 and a recent survey indicated that 1 in 5 young drivers admitted to driving daily while under the influence of illegal drugs. So it’s a significant problem and the police are keen both to educate people about the risks and to prosecute offenders.
It remains to be seen how effective the static road checks will be but the publicity surrounding them should certainly help raise awareness of the dangers and consequences.