Police officers carry out 3,900 fewer alcohol breath tests each year on drivers in Dorset than a decade ago, figures reveal.

Road safety charity Brake says the decline is symptomatic of “savage cuts” to police numbers, and is calling for better funding and a zero tolerance drink-drive limit.

Home Office statistics show that 5,712 breath tests were conducted by Dorset Police in 2018 – around 3,900 fewer than in 2009, the first year with comparable data.

Of those last year, drivers failed or refused to do 906 – 16% of all tests.

Meanwhile, Department for Transport figures show that drink-driving contributed to 45 accidents attended by officers in the area last year.

The drop in the number of tests was smaller than that across England and Wales, where 321,000 were done last year – less than half that in 2009.

Police forces started to use new recording equipment in April 2018, before which the number of passed breath tests tended to be under-reported.

Across the two nations, motorists refused or failed 48,800 – 15% of all tests, which was the highest rate since 2007.

The figures exclude forces in Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex and the Met Police, as they did not submit complete data for every year.

Brake says slashed budgets have left police forces less able to do checks on potentially dangerous drink-drivers.

“Couple that with the fact that the number of positive breath tests increased, and it shows that drink-driving remains a serious issue on our roads,” a spokesman for the charity added.

“Brake is calling for the Government to implement a zero tolerance drink-drive limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe, and increase investment in national roads policing to provide the police with the resources they need to tackle the menace of drink-driving.”

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said that while the crime is less socially acceptable than in the past, the battle has not yet been won.

He added: “More road traffic police officers enforcing laws and more breath tests would certainly be welcome, but this should be accompanied by high-profile awareness campaigns.

“The advice to drivers is simple – if you are going out and plan to consume any alcohol whatsoever, leave your vehicle at home and make alternative travel arrangements.”

Police can make someone take a breath test if they suspect they have been driving, or trying to drive, with alcohol in their body.

They can also order one if the driver has committed a traffic offence while their vehicle is moving, or if they have been involved in an accident.

It is a crime to refuse a breath test, unless the driver has a reasonable excuse, such as a medical condition.

A Home Office spokesman said a fall in the number of tests could be down to various factors, including increased awareness of the law, and police prosecuting drivers under more serious offences, or choosing other enforcement methods such as education courses.

He added: “We are giving police the tools they need, including recruiting 20,000 new police officers over the next three years, and making it easier for them to use stop and search powers.”