POLICE in Hampshire carried out over 17,000 fewer breath tests last year than officers did a decade ago, figures have revealed, with road safety experts branding the decrease 'worrying'.

Government data shows 14,177 tests were conducted by Hampshire Constabulary in 2019 – the lowest in the past 11 years and 55 per cent fewer than in 2009, when there were 31,794.

Figures also found that drivers failed or refused to provide a specimen 1,936 times (14 per cent of all tests in 2019).

Across England and Wales, the number of tests also fell last year with the AA branding the decrease “worrying” and blaming police cuts for the record low.

An RAC road safety spokesman claimed the figures will only “further arouse suspicion from drivers that road traffic laws are simply not being properly enforced.”

However, Hampshire police says that breath tests are still important for policing county roads.

A spokesperson said: “Since the introduction of roadside drug-driving tests in 2015, we have seen a significant rise in the number of motorists testing positive for illegal substances.

“Where these motorists may have previously been breathalysed, we are now able to use drug analysers to test for a level of certain illegal drugs in a person’s saliva.

“We are now also far more intelligence led when dealing with drink driving.

“We will continue to breathalyse drivers who have been involved in a collision and breath tests still have an important role to play in the policing of our roads.”

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.

Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen said: "Even though people are still drinking and driving, I don't think they're doing it in the number they did previously.

"I know people in their 50s and 60s, grew up thinking it wasn't that bad of a thing to do whereas people in their 20s, 30s and 40s now, almost never do it.

"I think in general, the law abiding sensible public, don't think it's okay.

"There are fewer people drinking and driving, there are fewer people being stopped for it, and there are more cameras looking for things like speed.

"You can understand why the police will move their resources to where they are most needed."

In response to the figures, AA president Edmund King 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 Hampshire for every 1,000 people which is above the average, of six, across England and Wales.