On the beat with the Road Policing Unit

ZERO. Fortunately for me, I’ve blown a negative reading on PC Danni Dawes’ breathalyser, but for 45 others already this month, they’ve not been so lucky.

W24552H13  On Patrol
W24552H13 On Patrol

Sussex Police is currently focusing on preventing drink and drug-driving, as it believes the few glimpses of sun we have seen of late will have encouraged residents to have a tipple or two.

As ever, though, there are the minority who then get in their car, and police are warning: “You will get caught.”

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The campaign is part of an effort to reduce the number of casualties and fatalities on Sussex roads.

“You have to be a bit blasé about death in this job,” said PC Dawes.

“I don’t know how many fatalities I’ve been to, but the worst part of my career was having to accompany a mother to tell her two young children their dad had died.

“Me and my officer eventually ended up in tears, too, as it was so emotional.”

Although not all road deaths are drink-related, alcohol is certainly a common cause of crashes.

A heightened level of random checks in June has seen 1,266 breath tests, and 45 positive readings.

For those who have blown over the legal limit of 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, it’s a stay in a police cell to sober up, followed by court appearances if charged, and, ultimately, lengthy driving bans.

Having never been pulled over before, PC Dawes showed me the process.

Asked if I had drunk today, I responded ‘no’, and blew into the machine for what seemed like an age.

Even though this was a demonstration (and I had only had tea that day), I still had butterflies while I waited for the result.

I can only imagine what it feels like if you’ve got a lingering suspicion you’re going to fail.

While the emphasis is on finding drink-drivers this month, there are several other duties a traffic officer must perform.

We start our day with some speed checks in Durrington. We’re looking for anyone over 36mph in the 30mph limit.

At this speed, a letter will be sent to the driver, who will opt between points and a fine or a speed awareness course.

PC Dawes said: “In 70mph zones, we regularly get people in the 90s, and sometimes over.

“At that speed, we can’t give out fixed penalties, and it goes automatically to the courts.

“It used to be a straight punishment, but it’s more about education now, with various courses available.”

For the full story, see the Herald and Gazette, out Thursday, June 20.