Mission to get drink and drug drivers off North-East Lincolnshire's roads
Drink and drug driving is a major concern for Humberside Police and nationally accounts for 14 per cent of deaths on the road. At Christmas, the temptation to drink and drive may increase. That is why an ongoing campaign to stop motorists who get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs is upping a gear. Reporter Faye Preston was given exclusive access to a night with Humberside Police and saw first-hand how motorists would be foolish to think they will get away with it ...
YOU are putting people's lives at risk and you will get caught.
That is the no-nonsense warning to motorists who decide to drink or take drugs and drive this Christmas from Humberside Police.
As part of an initiative funded by Safer Roads Humber, police constables will be out in force manning the roads of North East Lincolnshire to catch drink-drivers who think they are above the law.
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On a busy Saturday night, the Grimsby Telegraph joined PC John Rickells and PC Phil Humberstone during one of their weekly drink-driving operations.
PC Humberstone said: "Drink-driving is a major problem for us all the way through the year and it is one of our core offenses we are committed to tackling.
"One of the main ways we can do this is through operations such as this, when we go out onto the roads, increase our high-visibility presence and breathalyse as many motorists as possible. We may catch a lot, we may only catch one, but knowing we have removed one drink-driver off the road makes it worth it.
"It tells other motorists that they will be stopped, they will be breathalysed and if they are drunk, they will get caught."
Armed with a batch of breathalysers, they station themselves along Norwich Avenue, off Laceby Road, in Grimsby – a busy road not far from the Bradley Inn.
It is one night in hundreds that these PCs have ensured the safety of others by removing drink and drug drivers off the roads.
Last year, the force carried out 11,450 breathalyser tests, of which 947 tested positive – equating to almost 10 per cent of drivers.
Key signs that the driver is drunk or on drugs include erratic driving, swerving, or accidents – every driver is routinely breath tested after a crash – but PC Humberstone and Rickells also look for minor motoring offences, including driving with fog lights on and having a headlamp out.
A driver who has committed any of these offences will instantly be breathalysed at the scene.
If they have a reading of more than 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath they will be arrested and taken to the cells before they give blood and urine samples for an accurate figure on their alcohol intake.
But PC Humberstone explains as alcohol tolerance can vary dramatically from person to person and can be affected by a number of factors such as size and alcohol experience, that the safest approach is to not drink and drive at all.
He said: "My advice every time would be to not drink any alcohol before driving. It simply isn't worth it. The reading can be altered by so many things from what that person had to eat before drinking to their body weight. Every person is different.
"By drinking or taking drugs and then driving, they are putting not only their own lives, but other people's lives at risk."
Within minutes of pulling up on Norwich Avenue, PC Rickells stops a man driving a Honda CR-V with his fog lights on.
After checking his licence and insurance, he is asked to blow continuously into the white tube.
Within seconds the man tests negative and after a stern word, he is allowed on his way – a scenario that will be repeated numerous times throughout the evening.
Seconds later a young man driving his friends around in a Ford Focus is stopped for the same reason – an apparent fashion trend among young, male drivers.
He also tests negative and narrowly avoids the £30 fine.
Mr Humberstone continues: "Tackling the issue this way can be like a needle in a haystack sometimes. Tonight we know there will be people drink-driving in Grimsby and Cleethorpes and unfortunately we will not catch them all.
"There have been nights where we have been out until after midnight and the first person we catch is at 11.30pm. It isn't easy and it isn't the only approach we take. Another way is responding to calls from the public. If they ring in to report a car driving erratically we will make our best effort to find that driver.
"While this approach can be a little hit and miss at times, that gives us a clear direction and we will end the night knowing there is one less drink-driver on the roads for us to worry about."
Ten cars later – from speeding drivers to headlamp failures and no positive readings – the operation is expanded to Cleethorpes and we head to the car park near the Boating Lake, in Kings Road.
It is the main road out of the main clubbing and pubbing areas in the resort and there is, unfortunately, a good chance there will be a drink or drugged driver.
Twenty minutes into the operation, a man driving a BMW is pulled over and gets a reading of 18 mcg on the breathalyser – not enough for him to be arrested but enough to receive a word of warning from PC Humberstone.
The man claims he had drank a pint shortly before but felt fine to drive. He tells PC Humberstone that being pulled over is enough to make him think twice about doing it again.
Not long after a woman driving a black Vauxhall Vectra is stopped for undertaking a car who she thought was turning right. She has a reading of five micrograms. But it would appear the numerous anti-drink and drug-driving campaigns led by Humberside Police – and backed by the Grimsby Telegraph's name and shame campaign last year – has resonated with drivers tonight as none of the further ten pulled over in Cleethorpes tested positive.
It is a comfort to the police, and to the people they have stopped.
Terry Allenby, a fish and chip shop owner from Cleethorpes, was among those breathalysed on Saturday night. As a teetotal, he wants to see more police drink-driving checks.
"Drink-driving is appalling and it is reassuring to see the police doing these checks," he said.
"I want to see this happening more often but I know that with less money that is unlikely to happen soon."
A father-of-two who was pulled over off Laceby Road, Grimsby, agreed.
He did not want to be named, but after testing negative on the breathalyser test, said: "It wasn't great getting pulled over but it is good to see the police doing something to stop it.
"It will stop people getting injured or worse killed and make people think twice about drinking or taking drugs and then driving."