CHESHIRE motorists continued to drink and drive in shocking numbers this Christmas, despite a rising death toll on the roads.

Figures released this week by Cheshire Constabulary revealed that 174 arrests were made across the county between December 1 and December 28.

Of those arrests, 51 were made in the western area – which includes Chester and its surrounding districts.

Police and road safety officers have been disappointed by the large number of people risking their lives by driving their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol.

Inspector Phil Hodgson, of Western Rural NPU, said: “We have run Operation Hancock over the Christmas period and we have had an awful lot of drink-drivers.

“There are two ways of looking at this. Either there are more police on the roads or that there are more people continuing to drink and drive. I think it is a mixture of both.

“There will always be people who take the chance to drink and drive and do not think of the consequences.

“It is our challenge to make sure that we take these drink-drivers off the roads through enforcement while also educating those drivers to think about risking having that last pint or that last glass of wine.”

More than 90 arrests were made across Cheshire between December 1 and December 15, while 82 were made in the run-up to and during Christmas.

But despite seeing a small reduction in drink-driving arrests nearer to Christmas Day, road safety officials still had a stern message for offenders.

Roads liaison officer for Cheshire Constabulary, Mike Jones, said: “These are clearly disappointing figures due to the number of people arrested during this period.

“Will those caught still feel it was a good Christmas when they appear in court and continue paying the penalty for drink- or drug-driving throughout the whole of 2009?”

Male drivers were the worst offenders, accounting for 147 of those arrested, while motorists aged 36-50 were the worst-offending age group.