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Volunteers try to stop pre-loading

Clubbers and pub goers could be breathalysed as they venture out in Maidstone in an attempt to measure levels of drunkenness.

Urban Blue Bus volunteers will carry hand-held intoximeters to determine the volume of so-called 'pre-fuelled' drinkers who load up with alcohol BEFORE a night out in town.

A recent study by Maidstone Town Centre Management indicated many revellers are well above the drink-drive limit before they even set foot in a pub.

The four-week move, the first of its kind, could add pressure to change Britain's binge-drinking culture which is blamed for placing strain on A&E units and causing an increase in liver disease deaths.

Paul Alcock, manager of The Mall Chequers, said: "The plan is to find out how much people are pre-fuelling.

"The results will be used to warn of the dangers of drinking at home before going out."

According to latest figures from the Local Alcohol Profiles for England, 17% of those aged 16 and over in Maidstone engage in binge drinking - this equates to roughly 21,000 people.

Mr Alcock said the intoximeter scheme, a joint initiative between Town Centre Management supported by police, will be up and running in the next four weeks.

The hand-held devices could be used to carry out 200 tests a night on some of the estimated 20,000 weekend visitors to Maidstone's 50 licensed pubs and clubs.

The move follows a tour of the town's nightlife by the council's licensing committee last weekend.

One of the group, Cllr Dave Naghi, was shocked to see drinkers relieving themselves at the side of the road.

"It was disgusting," he said. "We're going to get some toilets back in the High Street."

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