CHRISTMAS is a time to celebrate with friends, family and work colleagues – but police are determined to crack down on people who drive while under the influence of drink or drugs.
As part of Operation Holly, police in Hampshire and Thames Valley are out stopping drivers and breathalysing them.
PC Rob Lewis and PC Sarah McEwen are two of the officers in the Road Policing Unit, based at Havant.
The News joined them on patrol on Saturday night, during one of the busiest weekends for the emergency services.
Their shift took them from Portsmouth to Havant and along the M27 to Fareham, Curdridge and Botley.
PC Lewis said: ‘We breathalyse drivers all year round, but at Christmas time we have Operation Holly because people are more likely to drink and drive.’
During the shift, no drivers were found with alcohol in their system.
PC Lewis said: ‘I hope this means that people are listening to our message and we like to think the campaign has prevented accidents.’
PC Lewis and PC McEwen explained that their night shift included following up leads on known or suspected drink and drug drivers and stopping cars for a range of reasons such as headlights not on and bad driving.
They booked one driver for doing 102mph on the motorway.
PC McEwen added: ‘Once we have a reason to stop a car, then we can breathlyse them, check their alcohol levels and also give safety advice.
‘It is important to keep spreading the message and hopefully whether a driver is stopped, sees us stopping other drivers or reads something in the paper about the police presence, then they will stop and think and choose not to drink and drive.’
The pair have worked in the traffic unit for a combined 17 years and have noticed drivers under the influence of drugs tend to be younger.
PC McEwen said: ‘Drink drivers vary in age, but drug drivers are those in their early 20s and they don’t think this will affect their driving.’
Officers can now use DrugWipe, which allows instant testing for drug traces at the roadside.
PC McEwen added: ‘There has been an offence for unfit to drive in terms of drugs, but the specific levels are only very recent.
‘There is also a big taboo around drink driving and people will call us if they know people have been drinking and plan to drive. But for drugs we don’t get that.’
Both officers agreed information given by the public is vital to their work.
PC Lewis said: ‘Having that information means we can intercept a car and prevent accidents. We need people to realise driving under the influence can kill.’