As Merseyside begins to gear up for the festive season Merseyside Police have started things off with its own seasonal tradition: Op Limit.
Op Limit is the national Christmas drink and drug driving operation that all forces are expected to support and will run continuously until 1 January 2024. The operation’s primary aim is to prevent deaths and serious injuries caused by people choosing to drive while under the influence.
Officers will be conducting roadside checks in locations right across the region, deploying breathalysers, Field Impairment Tests, and drug wipes.
Roads Policing Inspector, Gavin Dixon, stressed the force’s commitment to taking a preventative approach, “We believe in shared and proportionate responsibility and are committed to making roads safer. A key part of our role is to educate those who demonstrate a lack of road safety awareness, so wherever possible and appropriate, we will aim to educate and advise.
“However, where drugs and alcohol are concerned, not only will we be unapologetically taking a zero-tolerance approach, but proactively employing breathalysers and drug wipes at the roadside for immediate results.
“It’s important that people understand that they can be unfit to drive through drink and drugs even if the levels are under the legal limit. These can include prescription drugs that do not have a limit but affect your ability to drive safely.
“If you injure, or even worse, kill another person after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, believe me, whatever excuses you made to yourself before you got behind the wheel will crumble. There just isn’t a justification when you’re standing in front of your victim’s family – or your own family who’ve had to come to watch you get sentenced. Phases like ‘I thought one more couldn’t hurt’ or ‘but I felt fine’ don’t mean anything in the face of all that heartbreak and shame.
“Merseyside Police are committed to targeting not only motorists who drink or take drugs and then drive at night, but also to carrying out spot checks in the mornings to identify those still over the limit.”
Custody Inspector Dave Hedges has seen many suspected ‘morning after’ drink drivers come into custody across the festive season over the years, “I hope that this year will be different, but having worked many December shifts in custody, I can almost guarantee that someone, who may never have dreamed of drink/drug driving, will be brought into custody for being over the limit the morning after. This can be a devastating and life-changing experience.
“Perhaps they were pulled over on the school run, or on their way to work and actually unaware they were over the limit to drive. It’s sad, because often they’re horrified, but over the limit is over the limit – whether it’s the night before or the morning after, and the fact that you didn’t mean to doesn’t make any difference to the family of someone you seriously injure or kill.
“In my 11 years working within custody, dealing with people over the limit, I have never heard anyone say that their night out was worth it. No night out is worth it, so I urge the public to think about whether it is safe to drive and challenge those they suspect are in no fit state to drive.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “It is completely unacceptable to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drink or drugs. Those who do so not only put themselves at risk, but also endanger the lives of other innocent road users and can cause anguish and heartbreak that lasts a lifetime.
“As we approach Christmas, I welcome this police operation focused on cracking down on those selfish individuals who take drink or drugs and get behind the wheel.
“It’s vital we also work with the public to educate them on the dangers and risks of such behaviour and encourage people to think very carefully about their actions and, in particular, get them to think carefully about driving the morning after a night out. Safe Behaviour is a key theme in our Vision Zero strategy because we know genuine behaviour change is pivotal to reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on our region’s roads.”
Paul Fletcher from Merseyside Road Safety Partnership, stressed that drug driving could be a crime many were unwittingly at risk of committing, “Consuming alcohol or drugs before driving can be fatal, hence it being labelled as a ‘fatal four offence’ and while most people understand this, some may think they’re fit to drive, but I’d urge people to check their medication, read the labels and warnings.
“When we talk about drug driving we don’t just mean the conventional; cannabis or cocaine, but any drug that may impair your ability to drive including those prescribed or bought over the counter. Of course, as we go into the Christmas period we can expect more parties and social gatherings, I’d encourage people to plan their journey home before heading out and never be tempted to drink and drive, no matter how far or how short the journey. It only takes seconds to ruin a life.”
Merseyside Police would urge anyone who is concerned about someone driving under the influence to contact 999 directly as soon as it is safe to do so.
Image: Merseyside Police