Avon and Somerset Police have arrested 169 people for driving under the influence of drink or drugs since 21 November, as part of Operation Tonic. The force says this year’s winter anti-drink/drug operation started earlier than usual to coincide with the World Cup.

Officers have been warning drivers across Avon and Somerset there is no safe way to drink and drive and are targeting those who get behind the wheel when it is not safe to do so.

The operation is aimed at reducing fatal and serious injury Road Traffic Collisions (RTCs) and protecting other road users. In 2021, a third of RTCs in Avon and Somerset had a drink and/or drug drive factor. They involved the deaths of 12 people, all of whom had families, friends and loved ones whose lives will be forever impacted.

Last year’s Op Tonic operation, which ran throughout December resulted in 246 arrests. Responding to reports from communities, acting on gathered intelligence, stop checks and engagement events in the community to explain the consequences of drink/drug driving, are some of the tactics being used in this year’s operation.

Stop checks provide an opportunity for officers to act as a visible deterrent as well as affording them the opportunity to talk to drivers. This can also lead to the detection of other road related offences, such as driving without insurance.

Acting Chief Inspector Andy Barry, Avon and Somerset Police’s lead for Op Tonic, said: “We are currently arresting around fifty people each week for drink or drug driving; this is not acceptable and there are no excuses. There is no safe way to drink or drug drive – you need to find another way to get home.

“We also want to remind people that if you are out drinking in the evening, there remains a real possibility you could be over the limit in the morning too and not safe to drive. So again, plan ahead and if you need to drive the following day, don’t drink. If you choose to drink and drive, there is a high chance of being intercepted by our officers.”

Police are also urging people to come forward with information if they know or suspect someone is drink driving.

“Tell us if you suspect drink/drug driving is happening. Please don’t be that person that lets them get away with it, because it may result in someone’s life being taken or changed forever.” Andy added. “Your information will help us make targeted arrests and inform our patrols. Together we can get dangerous and irresponsible drivers off the roads this winter.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “I strongly believe that everyone should be safe to use our roads, which is why road safety is a priority within my Police and Crime Plan.

“A staggering 2,300 drink/drug driving arrests are made in a typical year across Avon and Somerset, which is why Op Tonic is such important activity. During this festive season please look out for one another and, if you do plan to drink, arrange a designated driver. There is no excuse to drink and drive.”

Drivers risk up to six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a substantial driving ban if they are caught driving while above the legal limit. Anyone who causes a death while drink or drug driving faces up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Reports of drink/drug drivers can be made online or by calling 101. Alternatively reports can be made anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. If someone is currently driving under the influence of drink or drugs, always call 999.