FIREFIGHTERS, police and road safety organisations joined forces to launch the Christmas anti-drink and driving campaign in Skipton.

The campaign, which will see more drivers stopped and tested for drink or drugs, will run until the new year and will aim to cut down the number of drivers driving after taking drugs, or after drinking over the legal limit.

The campaign, which was launched at Skipton Fire Station, is a joint initiative under the umbrella of Craven Road Safety Task Group.

Firefighters at the launch demonstrated how they would release a casualty from a crashed Volkswagen Polo. It took just more than six and a half minutes to remove the passenger door and to cut the roof off the car to release the 'passenger' - in this case a dummy - from the front seat.

Craven Herald reporter Lesley Tate had donated her old, blue VW Polo to Skipton Fire Station earlier in the year (undamaged and crime-free) for the service to use as it wished.

On Friday, firefighters in a training exercise cut it up for the launch of the Craven Road Safety Group's Christmas anti drink and drugs driving campaign. Look out for it over the next month as it is towed around the district to highlight the dangers of drink and drugs driving.

Craven station manager, Tony Peel, said people were still ignoring best advice and driving after drinking or taking drugs.

Although he believed a lowering of the legal limit allowed before driving would not necessarily work - as is currently being tested in Scotland - he thought best practice for drivers was not to drink or take drugs at all before driving.

Drink driving is still a big issue, he said, but drugs driving was now taking over, especially amongst younger people.

"It is drugs now, particularly with younger drivers, and they are taking cannabis and cocaine. They need to know, if they are getting behind the wheel of a car, it needs to be zero, they mustn't have taken anything," he said.

And, drugs can stay much longer in the system, and vary from person to person.

Mr Peel said it was no secret that the number of traffic police patrolling Craven had reduced, and that drivers might be tempted to take a chance, and drive while over the limit, but what they failed to take into account was that they could be involved in an accident - or that they could be reported to police by another road user.

"No one thinks they might have an accident. In fact, if police catch you after you've been drinking, or taking drugs, that's good, because you might just have avoided being in an accident."

Members of the road safety task group will be out and about in the district during the campaign with the smashed VW Polo in an attempt to hammer home what could happen to drivers who are tempted to drink or to take drugs before driving.

Last year, North Yorkshire Police arrested 137 drivers across the county during the month long campaign.