FIGURES showing that Cumbria Constabulary conducted 60 per cent fewer alcohol breath tests last year compared to a decade ago have been described as “worrying”.

Home Office data show 5,414 breath tests were carried out by the county’s police in 2019, with 551 failing or refusing the test – but in 2009 there were 13,495 tests.

In England and Wales, the number of roadside tests fell to 285,000 in 2019, 57 per cent fewer than the peak of 670,000 tests in 2009.

AA president Edmund King blamed “the massive reduction in the number of traffic officers” for the reduction in testing. And RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “These are extremely worrying figures and will arouse suspicion from drivers that traffic laws are not being enforced.”

A Government report found the number of traffic officers fell by a fifth between 2015 and 2019.

Department for Transport figures show there were 5,890 crashes on UK roads involving at least one over the limit driver in 2018, a figure which has stayed the same for the previous six years.

A spokesperson from Cumbria police said: “Comparing data without looking at other factors is not comparing like for like. There are also a number of circumstances when we would pursue someone for drink- or drug-driving offences, but roadside breath testing may not have been recorded as an action. We invest in the latest technology to help keep the public safe.

“We now use data from a different system to build intelligence, the outcome being that our overall number of breath tests may be fewer but tests are more strategically targeted. This means we are more accurate with our stops and the ratio of stops resulting in intoxicated driving offences is much higher.

“A decade ago roadside drug testing was not available – previously, if a driver appeared intoxicated, the only readily available option would have been to breathalyse them. They would have passed this test if they were drug-driving. Now, we can test for this.

“Breathalysing is therefore no longer the only course of action.

“Officers are trained to know the different signs of drink and drug driving.

“We have been rated as good by independent assessors for keeping the public safe and in the last three years, we have one of the highest roadside breathalysing test rates, per 1,000 people, in England and Wales.”