Police launch Christmas drink-driving campaign today

“If you drink, don’t drive.”

West Midlands Police and the Central Motorway Police Group are today releasing the brakes on their festive traffic campaign and urging people to think before they – or members of their group – have a drink.

Inspector Greg Jennings, who is heading up the force’s seasonal drink drive campaign, said: “Every year it is the same story – people seem to think that it is acceptable to have a few with their family or friends and then get behind the wheel.

“Via the charity Crimestoppers, we are asking anyone who is aware of people breaking the law to pick up the phone and report selfish individuals who think it’s fine to drink or take drugs and drive.”

People can make the call anonymously via the 0800 555 111 number and, in cases where offenders are arrested and prosecuted, they could earn rewards of up to £200 – or they can phone police direct by dialling 101.

Insp Sion Hathaway, campaign lead for CMPG, added: “The message is simple – drink driving kills and making a call could save a life. There are devastated families across the region, and the wider UK, who have had to face the horrendous situation where their loved one has gone out and then not come home, all because of a driver who selfishly got behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs. Many don’t even realise that they still pose a risk, and could be breaking the law, the morning after.

“Our specially trained officers have to work with families who have been left devastated by one mindless act and our aim is to stop people before they harm themselves, or others. A driver who reaches the lowest legal drink drive limit is almost three times more likely to be involved in a crash than someone who has drunk nothing. We regularly see drivers registering twice the legal limit, who are 22 times more likely to crash.”

Officers across the region will be on patrol morning and night to catch people who flout the law. Motorway cops will also be staging operations throughout the 450 miles of the Midlands networks to catch people who are prepared to take to the motorway when under the influence – including the morning after.

This year will see officers stopping cars both randomly and based on information about vehicles believed to be used by drink drivers. In 2012 almost 4000 drivers were stopped and breath tested by West Midlands Police over the festive period with 338 people either failing the test or refusing to offer a specimen.

Insp Jennings added: “The information people pass on to us will directly influence our patrols and could well prevent a family experiencing tragedy this Christmas, as well as leading to people being brought before the courts.

“Nationally we saw a 25 per cent increase in drink-related deaths last year and the festive period is always the most significant time for such offences being committed.

“At this year’s launch we’ll be joined by West Midlands Fire Service and local authority colleagues, when we’ll be displaying the wreckage of a car involved in a collision where the driver had been under the influence of alcohol. The mangled wreck is shocking to see and should hopefully jolt people into thinking before they drive under the influence of drink.”

Watch Commander Sam Lewis, who manages the West Midlands Fire Service Road Casualty Reduction Team, added: “Our firefighters see all too often the consequences of drink-driving, when they’re called out to release people from vehicles involved in collisions. The only safe option is not to drink- or drug-drive. It’s also vital, if you have been drinking, that you don’t underestimate how long the alcohol can remain in your body.”

West Midlands Police and CMPG will also be using social media throughout the month including myth-busting messages correcting some of the common misconceptions about alcohol, such as wrongly assuming coffee, sleep or a cold shower can help sober you up quickly.

Insp Jennings added: “The answer is a simple one. If you know you have to drive, don’t drink. And if the thought of going out and not drinking is just too much to bear, don’t drive.”