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Selfish drink and drug drivers threaten to turn Christmas into a tragedy.

So many people look forward to Christmas and all the social activity that goes with it – spending time with family, relaxing with colleagues, going to parties – but there is a very real danger to everyone posed by drivers under the influence of drink or drugs who threaten to turn Christmas into a tragedy for themselves and those who get in their way.

That is why, every year, we press home the message that drink-driving is not worth the risk.

It is our wish for everyone to have the happiest festive period possible, but we owe it to those whose lives have been destroyed by those who drink-drive to ensure that we are doing everything we can to stop those who take this most reckless of chances.

We owe it to people like Neal and Penny Staley, on the Isle of Wight, whose 10-year-old daughter Evey, at the outset of a very promising life, was killed by a man who chose to drive after drinking and taking drugs, and in whose memory Hampshire Constabulary is backing a purple-ribbon campaign against driving under the influence: an initiative I am proud to support and to hold up as our national flagship campaign in the fight against drink and drug driving.

Those who think they are fit to take the risk of driving while intoxicated are amongst the most selfish in our society – they spare no thought for themselves and, even more gravely, they spare no thought for the lives that they are capable of irreparably destroying in the blink of an eye.

The message is very simple. If you are driving under the influence of drink or drugs, we will be watching out for you, we will catch you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

Our equipment is fiercely accurate, our officers are highly trained and we do not turn a blind eye.

So think before you drink – make sure that if you are in a group that has a distance to travel at the end of the night, someone is a designated driver who does not drink at all. If all else fails, call a taxi, but do not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking.

The legal limit is not a challenge – it is the boundary between lawful and unlawful. Any alcohol in your system will impair your reactions, even if you are technically below the limit.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you are fit to drive the morning after a heavy night out so long as you have a coffee and a cold shower. Neither of these will do anything to get the residual alcohol out of your system. It takes an hour for every unit of alcohol you have consumed to be eliminated from your body, so it is very easy for you to still be over the limit if you have drunk heavily the night before.

And do not think that because your intoxicant of choice is not alcohol that you can fool our officers – even aside from the many methods at our disposal to detect those under the influence of drugs, your eyes will give you away if you have been taking them and you will be spotted.

Though you need to be aware of the penalties, what we are saying is basically grounded in common sense – look after yourself, look after each other and spare a thought for those who use our roads: don’t drink and drive, so that we can all have a happy Christmas.

Suzette Davenport is National Policing Lead on Roads Policing, amd is Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police.