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Drink-driving arrests drop as car crash deaths reach 8-year high | UK News

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It’s an age old message: Don’t drink and drive.

Countless campaigns, police operations and emotive adverts – but are they working?

Victoria Bates was on her way to see her parents in Kent when another car “pulled out of nowhere” and crashed into her. Her car flipped and she was left hanging upside down on a dual carriageway.

She was bed bound for a month and had extensive hospital treatment
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Ms Bates was bed-bound for a month and had extensive hospital treatment
Ms Bates' leg after her surgery
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Her leg after surgery

Ms Bates says: “I remember opening my eyes and thinking no this isn’t happening… I just remember thinking, I know it sounds gross, ‘my leg is hanging off, my leg my leg’, but also, because I had broken all of my ribs and I had punctured my lungs as well, I was struggling to breathe, so it was really hard to talk…

“I always consider myself a safe driver, but there was nothing I could have done at all, nothing.”

Ms Bates was paralysed on her right side and bed-bound for more than a month.

The driver of the other car was killed. He was nearly three times over the drink-drive limit.

The car 'came out of nowhere' Ms Bates said
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Her car flipped and she was left hanging upside down, Ms Bates says

Thankfully stories like these are less common than they were 20, or even 10 years ago. If you look as far back as 1979, 1,640 people were killed in an accident where the driver was over the drink-drive limit. The most recent provisional figures from the Department for Transport estimate 290 people were killed in 2017.

But recent history is a different story. In the last eight years the number of casualties and fatalities involving a driver over the limit has stalled. In fact the latest DfT estimate suggests more people died in 2017 than any time since 2009, raising fears that roads policing simply hasn’t kept pace.

Miss Bates now has a metal plate in her neck
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Ms Bates now has a metal plate in her neck
She's had metal rods put in her leg
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She’s also had metal rods put in her leg

A Sky News Freedom of Information request found that in England and Wales, in the 25 out of 43 police forces that responded, the total arrests for drink-driving have fallen by nearly half in less than 10 years. The figures showed a steady decrease in arrests from 57,000 in 2008 to 30,000 in 2017.

In London, the Metropolitan Police arrested 10,882 people for a drink-driving offence in 2008, compared to 4,024 in 2017. Among those was a 10-year-old child who was arrested in 2009.

In Greater Manchester arrests also fell from 4,885 to 2,109.

Joshua Harris from the road safety charity Brake said: “We are very concerned by these figures. They are really indicative of the savage cuts in roads policing in the last 10 years. We really want to see roads policing made an investment priority so dangerous drivers are kept off our roads.”

Miss Bates says her life has completely changed now
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Ms Bates says her life has completely changed now
Victoria Bates was left bed bound for a month
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Ms Bates was paralysed on her right side

In a statement the Home Office said: “Drink-driving is completely unacceptable, which is why there are tough penalties in place.

“In 2018 there were 29% fewer fatalities involving a driver who was over the legal blood alcohol limit, compared with 2007.

In most police forces, there is a drop in the number of drink driving arrests
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In most police forces, there is a drop in the number of drink-driving arrests
The number of fatalities has gone down in the last eight years
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The number of fatalities could be higher in 2017 than any time since 2009

“This year we increased funding for the police by over £970m, including council tax – the most substantial investment in policing since 2010. It is for Chief Constables and locally-elected Police and Crime Commissioners to decide how to deploy these resources.”

Nearly two years on, and with a metal rod in her leg and neck, Ms Bates can walk short distances on a crutch. She knows she’s lucky to be alive, but not a day goes by that she isn’t reminded of how much her life has changed.

She told me: “I’m a completely different person to who I was before. I can’t walk around London on and off the tube, I can’t do my job in the way I used to. I used to be so career driven, but my whole life has changed completely. All in the blink of an eye.”

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