POLICE officers in Dorset carried out 45 per cent fewer alcohol breath tests on drivers last year than a decade previously, figures show.

The AA said the decline in roadside tests across England and Wales was "worrying" and blamed police cuts for the record low number.

Home Office figures show 5,305 breath tests were conducted by Dorset Police in 2019 – 45 per cent fewer than in 2009, when there were 9,626.

Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to provide 759 – 14 per cent of all tests.

The number of tests reached its lowest in 2016, when there were 4,909.

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.

AA president Edmund King blamed the “massive reduction in the number of specialist traffic officers” for the reduction in testing.

He added said: “While cameras are a useful tool in helping police our roads, we cannot solely rely on them.

“A camera cannot stop a drink-driver, or pull over someone driving carelessly, so having more cops in cars will help eliminate poor and dangerous driving.

“The lack of roads police has led to drivers thinking they can get away with certain offences.”

The Home Office data also showed that seven tests were carried out in Dorset for every 1,000 people – above the average, of six, across England and Wales.

The Government said drivers being more aware of the law and police prosecuting under more serious offences could be some of the reasons why numbers are falling.

Inspector Joe Pardey, of the Dorset Police traffic unit, said: “While we have seen a reduction in officer numbers over the past decade, and this will clearly impact on the number of roadside tests we are able to conduct, we continue to do all we can to ensure the safety of those who use Dorset’s road network.

“We take a smarter intelligence-led approach to make the best use of our available resources. Our enforcement activity is focussed on individuals who present the greatest risk to those who use the county’s roads, with our Op Dragoon initiative using community intelligence to target those who are known to pose a significant risk.

“We also now make greater use of social media platforms and other technology to educate the public and get our road safety messaging across.

“Tackling drink and drug driving has remained a constant priority for the Force as we recognise that they are both significant contributing factors to a number of the fatal and serious injury collisions we sadly see on our roads.

“We would continue to urge anyone with information about someone who is known to drive while intoxicated to contact us at www.dorset.police.uk, via email at 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101. If you suspect someone is driving under the influence, dial 999 immediately.”