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Drink drive crackdown cuts US crashes

PUBLISHED: 17:31 03 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 02 June 2010

A crackdown on drink driving amongst Suffolk's 17,000 American airmen and women has led to a dramatic reduction in offences and fatal road traffic collisions, according to new figures.

A crackdown on drink driving amongst Suffolk's 17,000 American airmen and women has led to a dramatic reduction in offences and fatal road traffic collisions, according to new figures.

Five years ago, the US Air Force bases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath suffered nine fatalities on local roads over a 12-month period.

But Suffolk's American residents are now much more road wise following an anti-drink driving and education campaign, say county road safety officials.

The introduction of the USAF's Airmen Against Drunk Driving scheme and other initiatives has resulted in a 63pc reduction in offences over the last four years and fewer crashes.

Members of the Suffolk RoadSafe Board are set to meet representatives from RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath tomorrow to discuss how to further improve and increase awareness of American personnel's safety.

Lt Col Gary Slack, chief of wing safety at RAF Mildenhall, said the USAF conducted a close look at its safety programmes following a spate of deaths in 2003. He added that American personnel undergo a range of courses and tests before driving on British roads.

“With around 35pc of the driving age group under 26, the introduction of a course aimed specifically at these drivers has made a real difference.

“In 2007 we suffered only one road fatality. Because one death is still too many, we appreciate the opportunity to meet with the board to explore further opportunities to reduce road fatalities,” he said.

RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall also introduced a weekend and holiday volunteer programme that will pick up any base member who has had too much to drink and return them to their home no questions asked.

A Suffolk coroner wrote to the wing commanders at Mildenhall and Lakenheath last year to ensure that lessons had been learnt following the deaths of two airmen who were killed in head-on collisions in 2006 while driving on the wrong side of the road and over the drink drive limit.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Councillor and chairman of the Suffolk RoadSafe Board, said the USAF had shown a “serious commitment” to reducing crashes in the county.

“The board values the efforts that the USAF has put into driver training and education programmes which have helped to reduce road fatalities over the last four years,” he said.

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