Police launching their Christmas drink and drug drive message have teamed up with a local venue to offer free soft drinks to designated drivers.
Today marks the launch of the national Christmas drink and drug drive campaign, which will run until early January 2017.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of driving whilst intoxicated by alcohol or drugs and officers actively take part in educational and enforcement action by carrying out random checks on drivers.
To mark the start of the campaign, The Keys on Yarm High Street is offering free soft drinks to designated drivers using their pub during the week before Christmas, from Monday, December 19 to Saturday, December 24.
Chief Inspector Graham Milne, from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “Our message to drivers is simple. “If you take the risk of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could kill someone, or even yourself.
“Even if you’ve had a few drinks on an evening and you think you can get up and drive the next morning, it may be the case that you are still over the limit.
“Drugs also stay in the system for a very long time.
“At this time of the year when lots of people are out enjoying the festivities and attending Christmas parties, it’s really important for us to be enforcing this message and educating drivers on the dangers of getting behind the wheel whilst intoxicated.
“I would ask drivers to think about how they would feel if their loved one was killed by a driver who was under the influence and I would urge them not to take that chance with a life.”
James Ransom, Manager at The Keys, said: “I think this is a great campaign to be a part of, especially at this time of year when it’s easy to be persuaded into having one more drink during Christmas parties and celebrations. “It’s not only peoples own lives at risk, it’s others on the road too.
“It’s something that has a domino effect and could ruin families at Christmas if the worst were to happen.
“If you want to drink, leave your car at home or make sure you stick to the soft drinks.”
In 2015, the introduction of new legislation meant that officers could use ‘Drugwipe’ kits to test drivers at the roadside for anyone suspected of being impaired through cannabis or cocaine.
Motorists convicted of drug driving are banned for at least a year and can be fined up to £5,000 and be sent to prison.
The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is up to 14 years in jail.
During last year’s Christmas campaign, 125 drivers were arrested after being found to be under the influence of alcohol and a further 46 were arrested after being found to be under the influence of drugs.
Another 14 were arrested after being unable to provide a specimen for analysis.