CHRISTMAS drink-drive arrests across Hampshire dropped 15 per cent on last year, according to figures released today.
During Hampshire police’s Smashed campaign, which ran from December 1 to January 1, a total of 5,811 drivers were breath tested – 243 more than the Christmas period in 2011. Of those tested, 205 people gave a positive reading and were arrested and of those, 12 per cent were at least three times over the drink-drive limit.
Police have since charged 140 people, 68 per cent, with drink-drive offences, bailed 51, 25 per cent, pending further enquiries and released 14, seven per cent, with no further action.
Chief Inspector Andy Bottomley, of Hampshire police, said: “I am obviously very pleased with the results which do suggest a reduction in drink-driving offences across the two counties during the campaign.
“It is important to point out that while we carry out drink-drive operations throughout the year, we see a spike in this type of offending in the weeks leading up to and just after Christmas.
“After seeing a nine per cent rise in drink-drive arrests in 2011, it was clear that we needed to invest more time and resources into our Christmas campaign in 2012.
"As part of this we carried out operations every Friday and Saturday night and Sunday and Monday morning as well as our usual roadside checks and joined forces with our colleagues in the local Safer Neighbourhoods teams spreading drink-drive messages with the help of bumper stickers, beer mats in local pubs and by touring with a crashed car which just one year previously had been involved in a drink-drive fatality.
“I like to think that this has paid dividends, not only because of the number of arrests made but hopefully in that the volume of officers out on Hampshire’s and the Isle of Wight’s roads would, for some, been good enough reason not to chance it.”
This year saw a 44 per cent increase in female drivers arrested, up from 43 to 62, whereas male driver arrests fell 27 per cent from 197 to 143.
The youngest person arrested was just 17 years old while the oldest was 81. The average age of suspected offenders was 37.
Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes: "I'm also pleased to see that from the results the message about drink driving appears to be getting through.
"However I am concerned that the highest failure rate was for drivers aged between 30 and 39; and also that 12 per cent of those arrested were at least three times over the limit.
"Issues around alcohol misuse are ones which I will be addressing in my Police and Crime Plan which is to be published at the end of March. I will be inviting partner organisations to join with me and the police in working to reduce both alcohol and drug abuse across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
"It is important that social problems such as these are tackled seriously to ensure the message gets out that drink-driving and anti social behaviour are simply not acceptable in our communities.
"The results also show that police need to keep up the good work already being done. I was out on patrol on New Year's Eve and when most people were celebrating, officers were working hard - often dealing with alcohol related incidents."
Out of everyone breath-tested during the campaign, 30 per cent were as a result of a road traffic collision. Out of the 1,726 persons tested after collisions 5.6 per cent failed the test.
By area, eastern and northern Hampshire had the highest number of arrests with 75, 37 per cent, and 69, 34 per cent, respectively, followed by western Hampshire including Southampton, New Forest, Eastleigh and Romsey with 61 arrests, 30 per cent.
Havant had the lowest number of arrests with six, followed by Andover with nine and the New Forest with 11.
People in Southampton were the worst offenders with 33 arrested followed closely by Portsmouth drivers of which 30 were arrested.