POLICE officers carried out a record-low number of alcohol breath tests on drivers in Hampshire last year, figures reveal.

Home Office statistics show that 15,934 breath tests were conducted by Hampshire Constabulary in 2018 – the lowest number since records began in 2002.

Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to do 1,598 – 10 per cent of all tests.

Hampshire Constabulary said they are now more intelligence led when dealing with drink driving.

Meanwhile, Department for Transport figures show that drink-driving contributed to 157 accidents attended by officers in the area last year.

The drop in the number of tests reflects the trend across England and Wales, where 321,000 were done last year – a record low.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said: "Since the introduction of roadside drug-driving tests in 2015, we have seen a significant rise in the number of motorists testing positive for illegal substances.

"Where these motorists may have previously been breathalysed, we are now able to use drug analysers to test for a level of certain illegal drugs in a person’s saliva.

"We are now also far more intelligence led when dealing with drink driving, using information provided to us to target those we believe present the greatest risk.

"Our message is simple, don’t mix drink or drugs with driving. They may stay in your system longer than you think and it is not worth the risk.

"Such behaviour on our roads has far-reaching effects not just for the impaired driver, but for any innocent road users affected by their destructive decisions.

"It is disappointing that some people still take that risk."

Police run dedicated campaigns targeting drink drivers and say they will continue to breathalyse drivers who have been involved in a collision and breath tests still have an important role to play in the policing of our roads.

Road safety charity Brake claimed the decline in breathalysers is symptomatic of “savage cuts” to police numbers and is calling for better funding and a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit.

“Couple that with the fact that the number of positive breath tests increased, and it shows that drink-driving remains a serious issue on our roads,” a spokesman for the charity said.

“Brake is calling for the Government to implement a zero tolerance drink-drive limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe, and increase investment in national roads policing to provide the police with the resources they need to tackle the menace of drink-driving.”

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said that while the crime is less socially acceptable than in the past, the battle has not yet been won.

He added: “More road traffic police officers enforcing laws and more breath tests would certainly be welcome, but this should be accompanied by high-profile awareness campaigns.

“The advice to drivers is simple – if you are going out and plan to consume any alcohol whatsoever, leave your vehicle at home and make alternative travel arrangements.”

Police can make someone take a breath test if they suspect they have been driving, or trying to drive, with alcohol in their body.

They can also order one if the driver has committed a traffic offence while their vehicle is moving, or if they have been involved in an accident.

It is a crime to refuse a breath test, unless the driver has a reasonable excuse, such as a medical condition.