POLICE officers in Essex carried out 68 per cent fewer breath tests on motorists last year compared to a decade ago, according to latest figures.

Home Office figures show 10,165 breath tests were conducted by Essex Police in 2019.

Back in 2009, when there were 31,825.

Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to provide 1,157 – 11 per cent of all tests.

The number of tests reached its lowest in 2017, when there were 8,059.

Adam Pipe, Head of Roads Policing, said his team were targeting people more specifically with breath tests and that drink drive arrests in total had been steadily rising even if breath tests had dropped.

He said: “Our approach to identifying suspected drink drivers is targeted and intelligence-led.

“This means we act on information from the public, focus on known hotspots or areas where people may get in their vehicle after having a drink, and targeting people driving erratically.

“Last year we made 1,467 drink driving arrests – up from 1,342 in 2018 – and in the first 10 months of 2020 that number is 1,160.

“My officers continue to be out on roads and in communities across Essex, working proactively to identify those putting the safety of other road users in danger.

“Drink driving is totally unacceptable and puts lives at risk.

“If you get behind the wheel while over the limit, we will do everything we can to put you before a court and off the road.”

Drug driving arrests have also been increasing year on year with more arrests already in 2020 than in the whole of 2019.

The Home Office data also showed that six tests were carried out in Essex for every 1,000 people – equal to the average across England and Wales

Across England and Wales, the number of roadside tests fell to 285,000 in 2019 – their lowest level since comparable records began in 2002.

This is down 12 per cent from the previous year and a reduction of 57 per cent from the peak of 670,000 tests in 2009.

Across the two nations, motorists refused or failed 47,223 – 17 per cent of all tests, which was the highest rate since 2005.

A spokesman for Essex Police urged anyone with details about anyone they suspect of drink driving to report it to them.

He said “If you have information about someone drink-driving, please report it to us.

“You can submit a report online at essex.police.uk or use the live chat button to speak to an online operator between 7am and 11pm.

“Alternatively, you can call 101.

“Information can also be given to independent charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.”