A DRUNKEN learner driver caught at the wheel twice the legal limit just hours into 2014 was among hundreds of boozed-up motorists arrested over the festive season.
The provisional licence-holder and their passenger – who was supposed to be supervising the novice – both failed breath tests after being stopped by police in Bathgate at around 2am on January 1.
A host of other drunk drivers were also arrested – on Hogmanay, police in Livingston gave chase when a motorist sped through a red light.
In Penicuik, officers had to brake sharply for a car, driven by a drunk 37-year-old woman, which swung out of a side road in front of them at 1.45am on December 29.
The cases are among 434 drunk drivers caught across the country by Police Scotland over the Christmas period – a seven per cent drop on last year’s figures.
The improved statistics come on the back of a hard-hitting Holyrood campaign designed to open the eyes of motorists to the risks – and consequences – of driving while intoxicated.
Since its launch on December 6, Police Scotland has tested 20,646 drivers for alcohol, with tip-offs from members of the public understood to be on the rise.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill stressed the government’s priority was to “save lives” and said the cross-media campaign had “reinforced” the message to never drink and drive.
He said: “As well as a new marketing campaign, which ran across TV, radio, online and in bars over the festive period to support Police Scotland’s enforcement activity, we have partnered with over a thousand private and public sector organisations and worked with the media over the past four weeks to hammer the message home.
“Unfortunately, some people have chosen not to heed the warnings and they now face tough consequences which include a lengthy criminal record. The good news is they are no longer on our roads and no longer pose a threat to the safety of themselves and others.”
Also on January 1, a 50-year-old man crashed his car into another vehicle in Edinburgh and was found to be more than twice the legal limit.
Another driver was stopped and arrested at 3am on New Year’s Eve in the Capital after he ran a red light in front of police officers.
Neil Greig, head of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, welcomed the figures with “cautious optimism” and praised the successful drink-driving campaign.
“It’s often difficult to compare year-to-year because other factors like the weather come into play,” he said. “I’m pleased that since it came into being last April, Police Scotland has put a lot of effort into drink-driving enforcement in general.
“To have a very high-profile campaign and to catch fewer people would suggest the message is finally getting home to motorists but there’s still far too many drink-driving.”
Head of road policing Superintendent Iain Murray said: “Over the festive period, we have caught 434 drivers who were willing to put their lives, and the lives of others, at risk by driving under the influence of drink or drugs. They will now be dealt with like any other criminal.
“Although this particular campaign has come to a conclusion, the efforts of the police to make Scotland’s roads safer will continue. We very much appreciate the help of the public in reporting anyone that they may suspect of driving under the influence of drink or drugs.”