The police departments of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and the Thames Valley worked together in December to apprehend more than a thousand drivers for drug and alcohol-related offenses. This number represents a significant 37% rise when contrasted with December 2022.
The data presents worrisome patterns of rising drug-impaired driving, casting doubt on the long-held belief that drunk driving is the main danger on our roads.
This holiday season and all into 2024, it is imperative that responsible citizens and law enforcement officials work together to reduce hazardous conduct and avoid harmful, even deadly, outcomes.
Drug-Driving Surpasses Drink-Driving Among Holiday Arrests
Across both police jurisdictions, arrests for drug-driving outpaced those for drunk drivers. Out of 1,012 total arrests:
- 485 motorists faced charges for drug-driving
- 371 arrested specifically for drunk driving
- 40 additional arrests made where both substances detected
Hampshire Constabulary’s 302 arrests break down as:
- 156 drug-driving arrests
- 131 drunk driving charges
- 15 instances of combined intoxication
Comparatively, Thames Valley’s 710 arrests comprised:
- 245 drug-driving offenses
- 240 drunk driving arrests
- 25 drivers who tested positive for both
Thames Valley’s head of road police, Inspector Simon Hills, thinks that drivers are more likely to get behind the wheel after consuming drugs for fun because of the normalization of such behavior. Although he does not drink and drive, he warns that there are still serious legal consequences and the risk of fatal accidents.
Joint Police Effort Makes Over 1,000 Arrests to Fight Holiday DUIs
Operation Holly was a joint effort by the police forces of Hampshire and the Thames Valley in December 2023 to prevent and apprehend intoxicated drivers during the winter holiday season.
The figures speak for themselves – over 1,012 total arrests came out of this coordinated traffic enforcement, dwarfing last year’s tally by more than 37%. Breaking down the data:
- 85% of arrests were either for drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs
- 40% more arrests for drug-driving than drunk driving
- Small fraction (about 4%) of drivers charged tested positive for both substances
Just so you know, in December of 2022, Hampshire Constabulary made 131 arrests of drivers suspected of drunk driving. The number of arrests in that county for drugged driving alone increased by about 20% from the previous year, reaching 156, thanks to Operation Holly in 2023.
Holiday Risks: More Drugged Drivers, More Arrests
What accounts for this sharp rise in drug-impaired arrests versus drunk driving offenses? Inspector Hills of the Thames Valley Roads Policing Team offered one theory:
“More people seem to feel that it’s appropriate or socially acceptable to take drugs and drive.”
But he cautions:
“The punishment and potential impacts are the same as drink-driving.”
In other words, drugged drivers face the same legal consequences and pose a similar public safety hazard as intoxicated motorists.
Additionally, traffic is already heavy during the winter holidays due to people traveling to see loved ones. With more vehicles on the road, drunk drivers have a better chance of causing accidents.
For this reason, law enforcement officials are gushing over Operation Holly’s December 2023 success in preventing the deaths of more than a thousand reckless drivers.
When 2024 rolls around, the Roads Policing Units will still be working hard to reduce the number of preventable accidents with “devastating consequences.”