The number of breath tests in West Yorkshire has hit its lowest level in nine years.

Last year 12,281 breath tests were carried out in the West Yorkshire Police force area, data from the Home Office has revealed.

That is considerably less than in 2008 when the police force carried out 19,979 tests and the smallest number since then.

When the police ask a driver to take a breath test, they have the right to refuse, but they can be arrested. Punishments for this are severe as drivers could be banned from driving for at least one year, face six months in jail or an unlimited fine.

In West Yorkshire, a test was refused or had a positive result 4,078 times – 33.2% of the total number of tests.

A PSNI Road Policing officer holds an operational breathalyser during a random drink driving checkpoint in Belfast

This is an increase in the proportion compared to 2008, when 4,481 tests were refused or had a positive result, or 22.4% of the total tests taken.

In the county, December is the busiest month with the most breath tests. In 2016, the police carried out 1,443 tests in December and 1,083 in February, the second busiest month.

Roads Policing Lead for the Police Federation, Jayne Willetts, said: “The Christmas Drink Drive Campaign has started.

“We remind those who drive when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs that police forces across the country are better equipped than ever before to detect and prosecute drivers who ignore the law.”

Road Traffic constable holding a breathalyser.
Road Traffic constable holding a breathalyser.

However, figures show the numbers of road policing officers have decreased, both locally and nationally.

West Yorkshire has lost eight road policing officers since 2014, down from 54 to 46 in 2017.

In England and Wales, the number of breath tests has decreased from 570,236 in 2002 to 463,319 in 2016, hitting its lowest level during the 15-year period.

December is the busiest month with 89,138 tests in 2016 and June is the second busiest with 50,656 tests.

According to the Police Federation of England and Wales, breath testing across the country has been reduced following a national targeted approach. While the number of drivers tested has been reduced, the Police Federation said forces have become more effective because officers have been targeting, through intelligence, drink drive hotspots.

The proportion of positive and refused tests has also decreased from 103,476 in 2002 to 58,998 in 2016.

However, the percentage has been rising since 2012, when 76,179 tests were refused or resulted positive out of 686,346 total tests.

Across England and Wales, the number of road policing officers has decreased from 5,237 in 2014 to 4,895.