Officers want to raise awareness of the inherent dangers involved in drink and drug driving by encouraging people to take responsibility for their actions this Christmas.
Throughout the month-long operation, officers will be requesting roadside breath tests from all drivers who commit a moving road traffic offence, irrespective of whether or not they suspect a drink driving offence.
Drugwipe sample kits will be used on drivers suspected of being unfit to drive through drugs, which provide an instant roadside indication before the driver is taken to custody to provide a blood sample for further analysis.
Officers will also be carrying out intelligence-led fixed site checks, as well as engaging with motorists on the risks of getting behind the wheel after a drink or taking drugs.
Inspector Matthew Setchell, of the Devon and Cornwall Roads Policing Team, said: “We know 2020 has been a different year for us and we’re unlikely to be out socially in the same ways as before this Christmas, but I want to be clear that the pandemic will not stop us from rigorously targeting those who are a danger on our roads, day or night.
“During last year’s Christmas drink drive campaign that ran from 18 December to 1 Jan, officers in Devon and Cornwall carried out 1,059 breath tests and charged 117 people with a drink drive related offence and 47 people with a drug drive related offence.
“Despite long-term reductions, drink and drug driving still accounts for 15 per cent of road deaths and almost 10,000 casualties nationally each year. We want to work with the public to not place additional unnecessary pressures on our NHS.
“Alcohol and drugs impair many of the functions necessary for safe driving; reaction times and spatial awareness are affected significantly. This may still be the case the morning after, depending on how much alcohol is consumed the night before and when you stopped drinking.
“If police think you are unfit to drive through consumption of alcohol, even if your breath test registers lower than the prescribed limit of 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath you can still be arrested and may be charged with an offence. In short, you do not have to be drunk to be a drink driver. Don’t risk it.
“It’s not just you that’s at risk. You could kill or seriously injure another person. Drink and drug driving destroys people’s lives and those of their families. Avoiding this happening is as simple as planning ahead, leaving the car at home, and using a taxi, public transport or designated driver to get home.”
Police Sergeant Owen Messenger, of the Alliance Roads Policing team, said: “Over my 16 years’ service, I have witnessed horrific devastation to families and their loved ones involved in collisions caused by drink and drug drivers.
“Having to break the news to loved ones that a family member is never coming home is one of the worst parts of my role, but sadly it happens all too often.
“Over the past decade we’ve significantly reduced the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads and we are passionate about ensuring we continue this downward trend.
“I would encourage you to be the responsible driver and not to take the risk where drink or drugs are concerned.
“If you have information about anyone who has been drinking or taken drugs and is about to drive, I would urge you to call us on 999 with the make and model of the vehicle, registration number and direction of travel.”
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is also chair of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership as well as the national APCC lead for road safety.
Commissioner Hernandez says she is particularly concerned about the potential effect the split tiers in Devon and Cornwall could have on drink driving over the festive period.
She said: “We are in the unusual position of having Cornwall in Tier 1, meaning residents can go to the pub for a drink, and Devon in Tier 2, where you can only drink in a pub provided you are also having a substantial meal.
“For those living on or close to the border between the two counties, I can see how tempting it might be to drive from Devon to Cornwall to have a Christmas drink.
“But I would strongly urge people not to do this and to use their common sense. As well as it being against both the rules and the spirit of the guidance, the temptation to drink and drive home can be catastrophic.
“Not only does it risk your life and the lives of other innocent road users, if convicted you will lose your driving license – which could also result in you losing your job – and could end up in prison.
“Most of us will not look back on 2020 with any fondness, but imagine how much worse it could be if you make the disastrous decision to drink and drive.”