It is great to see Wiltshire Police urging people to report suspected drink or drug drivers to them, as they launch their annual Christmas awareness campaign.
The national month of action is led by the National Police Chiefs Council and runs throughout December.
In my Police and Crime Plan, making our roads safer is one of my priorities to help ‘Prevent crime and keep people safe’ and is something my office and I are passionate about.
As I read about the targeted and intelligence lead, operational activity the Force will carrying out this month to crack down on drink and drug drivers, I thought about how else our communities could support the police in their efforts to keep our roads safe.
We have a lot of difficult country roads to navigate in Wiltshire, so add in drivers being impaired by drink or drugs whilst behind the wheel and it is a recipe for disaster.
When I first passed my driving test many moons ago in Chippenham, after just two formal driving lessons, it was a very different time. I remember my dad saying to me “right now you have passed, I will teach you how to really drive.” He taught me how to join the motorway safely and how to judge the speed of other cars on the road amongst other things. Roads were quieter, high powered cars weren’t as common and breathalysers didn’t exist, you just had to be able walk in a straight line for an officer.
My first car was a little green Mini, it cost me £60 in 1970 and I had my suspicions that it may have been two Minis welded together. It struggled to reach 70mph, even on a good run and downhill. Road safety wasn’t really something you heard much about.
Times have changed and thankfully so too has our approach to road safety. But I do think my father had the right idea by taking a proactive part in helping me be a safe driver. The police have a clear part to play in keeping our roads safe, but I also believe it is each of our personal responsibility too. We must of course ensure our cars are road worthy, with a valid MOT and insurance.
But we must also talk to our children about road safety, whether as pedestrians, cyclists or motorists. It is so important they understand the dangers of speeding, the dangers of being distracted by a mobile phone whilst driving and how driving under the influence of drink or drugs, as with all the above, can end in tragedy.
I talk a lot about new road users, but the Police catch people of all ages and from all walks of life drink or drug driving. The thinking behind the “it will never happen to me” or “I won’t get caught” mentality offers no protection if you are pulled over or involved in a road traffic collision whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It will be a night in the cells, followed by a trip to court for you. Not to mention the wider implications a driving conviction could have on your life, family and job.
It used to be viewed as a privilege to be able to sell and buy alcohol, with restrictions on the times it could be sold. We now see it for sale everywhere, including at petrol stations and motorway service stations, 24 hours a day. We as a community need to be responsible. If we know we are going to be drinking, book a taxi or organise a lift.
We shouldn’t be taking needless risks with our own safety and the safety of the wider public by getting behind the wheel while over the limit. There is simply no excuse. We all need to do our bit to support our local police, now more than ever.