Sussex Police has made a significant investment in its ongoing campaign to tackle drink and drug-driving this Christmas.
Approximately 300 officers across the force are now fully qualified to test motorists for drugs at the roadside.
This is in addition to the hundreds more officers already able to test for drink-driving, and makes it harder than ever for motorists to get away with offences which put their lives and others', at risk.
The figure – up from about 110 – includes both Roads Policing Unit (RPU) and non-RPU officers, and coincides with the launch of Surrey and Sussex Police's Christmas crackdown on drink and drug-driving, which runs from Thursday 1 December 2016 to Sunday 1 January 2017.
RPU Inspector Stewart Goodwin said, "Our priority is to keep everyone who uses the roads in our counties safe. By increasing the number of officers capable of testing for drink and drug-driving, we are increasing our chances of catching criminals. Subsequently, this decreases the risk of innocent motorists being involved in collisions with someone who is under the influence of drink or drugs.
"Realistically, no matter how many warnings we issue and how much advice we give, there is always going to be a minority of motorists who continue to break the law. Our focus is on educating these individuals that under no circumstances is it ok to drive while over the specified limit of drink or drugs.”
The Christmas campaign will see Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Units carry out dedicated patrols across the two counties to put the brakes on motorists who take to the road while under the influence of intoxicating substances.
The initiative is supported by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, DriveSmart in Surrey and the independent charity Crimestoppers.
During the festive crackdown, RPU officers will be tackling the issue on the roads network on a 24/7 basis. Recently trained non-RPU officers will also target drink and drug-drivers as part of their routine patrols.
Superintendent Chris Moon, Head of Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said, "There is no safe limit for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Our advice is simple – go cold turkey or do not drive. If you're tempted just think of the consequences; you could lose your job, your home or your life. And remember even if you opt to take the sensible way home at night you may still be over the limit the following morning.
"Driving with drink or drugs in your system impairs your judgement and ability to drive safely. Not only can you cause injury or death to others, being caught drink or drug-driving can also have other consequences such as a criminal record, a heavy fine, losing your job and your licence, an increase in your insurance premiums and trouble travelling to certain countries.”
Anyone caught drink or drug-driving will be dealt with robustly – offenders face a minimum 12-month disqualification, up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to £5000. If a death is caused through dangerous driving while over the limit, a sentence of up to 14 years behind bars can result.
Legislation since March 2015 sets legal limits for the amount of a substance – including illegal drugs and prescription medication – motorists can have in their system while driving. Officers no longer have to prove that a motorist is fit to drive; only that the driver has an illegal level of drugs in their system when on the road.
Supt Moon offers some simple advice to ensure you remain safe and don't put others at risk of harm during the festive period.
He said, "If you have or are planning to drink alcohol, plan your journey home without driving. Don't offer an alcoholic drink or drugs to someone you know is planning to drive. And don't accept a lift from a driver who you know has drunk alcohol or taken drugs.
"We work hard to drive home the message that drink or drug-driving will not be tolerated, but ultimately it is up to the individual and those who are aware of such behaviours to take responsibility. I implore people to be sensible and make the 2016 festivities memorable for all the right reasons.”
Members of the public are also being asked to play their part by reporting anyone they suspect to be driving under the influence.
People in Sussex can text officers on 65999 with the details of people they suspect of drink or drug driving or visit www.operationcrackdown.co.uk.
You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you know someone is driving while over the limit through drink or drugs, call 999.