Northumbria Police’s Op Dragoon is warning people not to find themselves on too big a high this Christmas as they prepare for the first winter under the new drug-driving laws.
As the festive season approaches, drivers across the region will be more tempted then ever to get behind the wheel after having a drink with family and friends.
Last winter, 146 people had a Christmas to forget after being arrested by the Op Dragoon team following a positive breathalyser test on the roadside.
In a bid to take drink-drivers off our roads, extra officers will be deployed alongside normal patrols across the region, but there will be extra focus on drug-drivers after new legislation was introduced in March this year.
The new laws set a legal limit to the amount of certain drugs acceptable in the bloodstream before being able to get behind the wheel and also close loopholes.
Acting Motor Patrols Chief Inspector Dave Little said: “We are better equipped than ever before when it comes to tackling drink and drug-drivers and taking them off the roads. This Christmas, we are equipped with new drug-driving legislation to help tackle those who think they can get away with taking illegal substances before they get behind the wheel.
“Driving while under the influence of either drink or drugs could lead to an innocent person being killed on our roads and I find it baffling that people continue to take that risk. We are committed to doing all we can to make sure the roads are safe for everyone this Christmas and our message to motorists is to not take the risk.
“This month, we will be using information from our communities to target those suspected of drink-driving so we can stop them before there are any serious consequences from their thoughtless actions. For this campaign to work, we need the public’s help and we need people to tell us who the drink and drug drivers are so we can take action. Reporting these people could help to save lives and make a real difference out on the roads.”
This Christmas will see the Op Dragoon team armed with drug-testing kits to catch those getting behind the wheel when under the influence of illegal substances.
There will also be close work with Neighbourhood Policing Teams to conduct intelligence-led patrols targeting specific suspects identified using information being fed in by local communities.
To aid the campaign, the Force has also been donated two high-tech testing kits by manufacturers Draeger which allow officers to set up drug-testing stations on the roadside. These provide readings which are accurate enough to be used as evidence in court without the suspect having to be taken into custody first.
If charged with a drug-driving offence, the penalties are a minimum of a one-year ban, a fine of up to £5,000, the possibility of a prison sentence and a conviction which will stay on your driving licence for 11 years.
Acting Chief Inspector Little added: “The two drug-testing kits donated to us by Draeger are further tools that will help us clean up our roads and we want to extend a thank you to them for their generosity.
“We have been one of the best forces in the country in tackling drug-drivers since the legislation was introduced in March this year and we plan to continue the good work.
“Everyone looks forward to the festive period which is traditionally about people getting together and celebrating the festive season with friends, family and work colleagues. But people think they can have a couple of drinks and still get behind the wheel – that is just not the case. We really want to stress that even a small amount of alcohol could still push you over the limit.
“If you are planning a Christmas night out, then make sure you plan how you’re getting home, whether that be through a sober, designated driver or through public transport.
“If you have had a heavy night then remember you could still be drunk the morning after and should not take the risk. Don’t take the risk and don’t drink and drive.”
Anyone who suspects someone of drink or drug driving should contact police on 101, ext. 69191, or 999 in an emergency.