Motorists are being warned that there are no excuses for drink or drug-driving as police launch an annual Christmas crackdown today (1 December).

Drink and drug-driving is one of the most common causes of collisions which result in death or serious injury on our roads.

But hundreds of drivers in Sussex continue to be arrested each month, and give a variety of excuses for being over the limit behind the wheel.

Some of the most common include those who believe they are still fit to drive the morning after a night out, motorists who believe they will not cause harm because they are only travelling a short distance, and motorists who claim they felt “fine to drive”.

It is also the time of year when people are likely to go out socialising with their loved ones, friends or colleagues, but then make the mistake of not making adequate plans to get home safely after their night out.

So from December 1 to January 1, Surrey Police and Sussex Police will have officers dedicated to preventing and detecting incidents of drink and drug-driving. This is in addition to the routine roads policing work carried out 365 days a year.

In keeping with previous campaigns, anyone arrested during this period and convicted will be identified on our website and social media channels as a deterrent.

Sussex Chief Constable Jo Shiner, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing said: “Preventing drink and drug driving is a key focus for police officers across the country, every day of the year.

“Driving under the influence of drink, drugs, or both, is entirely unacceptable. It puts not only the driver’s safety at risk, but also those within the vehicle and the safety of every other road user or pedestrian the driver comes across on the journey.  Do not let your selfish choices be the reason that another family loses a loved one this Christmas.

“It has been a challenging couple of years and we understand that people want to enjoy the festive season, however there is no excuse to drive under the influence of drink or drugs. The Operation Dragonfly campaign serves to remind people of this and so the public should expect to see our officers on the roads of Sussex; taking robust action across the coming weeks to ensure that this selfish behaviour is tackled.”

Chief Inspector Michael Hodder, of the Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said: “Drink and drug-driving really does destroy lives and is something we see far too much on Surrey and Sussex roads. Most people are safe and conscientious motorists, but despite knowing the risks, there is still a small number of people who are not only willing to risk their own lives but also the lives of others.

“Shockingly, more than 4,400 motorists have been arrested on suspicion of drink or drug-driving in Sussex since the beginning of 2020.

“It is worrying that some in society still see this crime as acceptable and we encourage you to have a designated driver, utilise taxis and public transport where you can, and enjoy your Christmas celebrations without the fear of killing a friend, a stranger or yourself through drink or drug-driving.

“As always, we will deal extremely robustly with these offenders through a combination of measures including education, engineering and enforcement, with a special emphasis on reducing casualty rates of vulnerable users like motorcyclists and young drivers.

“Remember even a small amount of alcohol or substances can massively impair your ability to drive safely and you could also be over the limit several hours after you’ve stopped drinking, so make sure you give it enough time before you drive. Drugs stay in your system far longer.

“So do the right thing and arrange an alternative and safe way home.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “After nine years in this role, I’m still astonished and dismayed at the number of motorists who put their lives and other people’s at risk by drink or drug-driving.

“It shouldn’t be necessary to point out how dangerous it is to get behind the wheel of a ton or more of fast moving metal that you can’t properly control but people do every day, and they are often tempted to because of the increased frequency of festive social occasions.

“Even if you don’t end up injuring anybody you will end up with a fine, a ban or a prison sentence and criminal record.

“Please plan your socialising this Christmas and get a designated driver or a taxi if you’re having a drink.

“If you’re reckless enough to take drugs and drive, Sussex Police officers will be able to detect it long after you’ve taken it.

“When you’re driving home for Christmas you don’t want blue lights all around.”

The consequences of drink or drug-driving could include:

  • Killing or seriously injuring yourself or someone else;
  • A minimum 12-month ban;
  • An unlimited fine;
  • A possible prison sentence;
  • A criminal record, which could affect your current and future employment;
  • An increase in your car insurance costs;
  • Trouble travelling to countries such as the USA.

If you know someone is driving while over the limit or after taking drugs, call 999.

You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The campaign is being supported by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.