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6,600 arrested in police annual drug and drink driving purge

The Police ‘Op Limit’ campaign over xmas 2023 resulted in 6,616 arrests, with 14 per cent of over 50,000 tests showing positive results

Drink driving

Details of the UK’s now traditional Xmas campaign against drink and drugged driving have been released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

The campaign known as ‘Op Limit’ has been run nationally since 2022, in an effort to bring individual police forces together in what the NPCC describes as a “concerted effort to remove drink and drug drivers from our roads”.

All the UK’s police forces participated in the campaign during the recent festive season, and cumulatively they carried out 49,812 breath tests and 6,846 drug tests at the roadside on the suspicion that drivers were under the influence. Just under 10 per cent of the breathalyser tests for alcohol proved positive, failed or refused.

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Of the smaller number of drivers tested for drugs, 48.5 per cent tested positive. However, unlike breathalysers which can tell if a driver is over the legal limit, roadside drug tests only show if and when drugs are present, meaning the police have to conduct further lab tests. These can take weeks or months to process, which means the number of drivers who have already been charged is a relatively low 1,589 out of the 6,618 who have been arrested.

According to the NPCC, this means we’ll probably never know how many charges are ultimately put before the court directly as a result of Op Limit. 

“Bringing charges can take time due to a number of factors including the need for laboratory analysis of samples so the charge figure reported in Op Limit is not representative of the significant amount of work forces have undertaken,” an NPCC spokesperson told us. “There will have been more charges brought in the weeks and months following forces reporting back on Op Limit given they are only required to report on what happened during the 32 days of the operation.”

The NPCC is also at pains to point out that Op Limit is about much more than ‘tests and arrests’. “There’s lots of education work, targeting of prolific offenders and hot spot patrols amongst a range of different activities. The key message and purpose of all of this is to stop people driving under the influence of drink or drugs and there are many tactics which are used to achieve that,” the spokesperson told Auto Express.

Should there be harsher penalties for drink driving? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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