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Senior officer gives graphic description of aftermath of crashes to hammer home seasonal anti-drink drive message

As Christmas approaches, police in Cambridgeshire have said they will be targeting drunk cyclists as well as drink-drivers in a seasonal clampdown unveiled today and running until the start of January.

Officers will carry out spot checks on motorists and carry out breath tests as well as ascertaining whether people are driving under the influence of drugs under the campaign, called Get Closer to Christmas.

Inspector Mark Rogers of Cambridgeshire Constabulary outlined to Cambridge News the stark reality facing people caught driving while above the drink-drive limit.

“The average cost of someone getting done for drink driving is about £50,000 so it is massive in terms of the financial repercussions and the personal repercussions in terms of social stigma of being a drink-driver,” he said. “The impact it has on employment prospects are huge.”

Last year, 125 people were arrested in the county for drink-driving in the run-up to Christmas, with 127 arrests made the previous year.

He also used graphic descriptions of the aftermath of crashes caused by drunk drivers to highlight why the force was clamping down on those who drank before getting behind the wheel. 

“I think people don’t understand the sheer horror of a road traffic accident,” said Inspector Rogers. “We see children thrown out of the windscreen and down the road. Let’s be clear about it – decapitation – is a horrendous picture.

“We’ve been to road traffic collisions where people have died and Christmas presents are strewn across the motorway – and it’s completely avoidable. Do not be tempted. Get a designated driver. A car is a lethal weapon.”

He also said that people cycling while drunk in Cambridge could be fined if they were considered to be riding in a careless or dangerous manner.

He explained: “It’s dangerous because you’ll probably go under the nearest car or lorry and the fact is cycling fatalities are going up.

“Cambridge is a massive area for cycling with a big student population and the roads are dark and narrow and it can be hairy enough cycling when you’re sober, let alone to do it when drunk. Cyclists need to concentrate to stay safe.”

Police said that they hoped members of the public would get in touch on a confidential hotline with the number 0800 032 0845 if they believe someone is drink-driving.

Inspector Rogers said: “Our message is clear – if you drive under the influence of drink and drugs, expect to be caught, it is reckless and irresponsible.

“We tackle drink-driving all year round, but over the next month drivers should expect a highly visible police presence on the county’s roads as we target those who drive under the influence.

“People can get involved in our campaign by supplying police with information about drink and drug drivers via the confidential hotline.”

Last year, the number of people caught driving under the influence of drink and drugs reduced, with 125 people arrested compared to 127 arrests the previous year.

According to the Bike Hub website’s article on Cycling and the Law, riding a bike while intoxicated can lead to a maximum penalty of £2,500.

Although no points are added to the rider’s driving licence, if he or she owns one, courts can, under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, disqualify a cyclist convicted of any traffic-related offence from driving a motor vehicle.

The Act says:

The court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence committed after 31st December 1997 may, instead of or in addition to dealing with him in any other way, order him to be disqualified, for such period as it thinks fit, for holding or obtaining a driving licence.

Penalties for drunk cycling in some other EU member states are much tougher than they are here, however, with the offence viewed as being just as serious as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

In 2009, a German student was fined €500 and banned from using a bicycle, skateboard or any other licence-free vehicle on the public roads, for 15 years after a breathalyser test found him to be three time the drink-driving limit.

During the same year, the BBC reported that in Poland, some 2,000 cyclists are arrested each year for cycling while drunk, and on average receive an 11 and a half month prison sentence.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.