Saturday, 24 November 2007 - 11:42am |
National News

Drunk driver numbers again disappoint Police

4 min read

Police are describing the number of drivers continually being apprehended for drink-driving as extremely disappointing.

A nationwide operation on Friday night (23 November), targeting drunken and drugged drivers stopped more than 28,000 vehicles, with 200 facing prosecution for drink-driving.

Operations Manager for Road Policing at Police National Headquarters, Inspector Carey Griffiths, says all Police districts joined forces for the operation, with all available Police manning checkpoints and conducting mobile breath tests.

Inspector Griffiths says the previous national operation in July saw almost 27,000 vehicles stopped, with 236 facing prosecution for drink driving.

"Similar results for this latest operation reflects the steady rise of both alcohol-related prosecutions and alcohol related deaths and fatalities," he says.

The highest reading seen by Police on Friday night was a Canterbury driver who blew 1253, more than three times the legal limit, after being apprehended at a checkpoint outside the Christchurch Central Police Station.

Another driver - a 36 year old Dunedin man - was apprehended after consuming about a dozen bottles of beer and then driving with his two-year-old son in the front of his car. Police were disappointed when the man tried to carry his son and walked into a parked car.

In the upper North Island, Police resources were stretched dealing with a series of Auckland motorway crashes due to rain and then a fatal crash on the Northwestern motorway, in which a 15 year old female passenger died, with another in serious condition. Police believe alcohol is suspected.

In Whangarei, concerned members of the public took the car keys off a 52-year-old female driver, who was so intoxicated she had to be carried from her car and was completely unable to undertake a breath test. Senior Police present described her condition as the worst case of drunk driving they have seen, and she faces a charge of driving whilst incapable as a result.

"While Police apprehended several recidivist drink drivers - and there can be a focus on the horror stories - the majority of drivers caught are at lower levels and simply don't see themselves as a risk, despite being significantly more at risk of a fatal crash," Inspector Griffiths says.

With New Zealand's legal limit of 80mg, drivers at that level are 16 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sober driver.

In 2006, alcohol and drugs played a part in almost a third of all fatal crashes.

Inspector Griffiths says the majority of OECD countries with better safety records than New Zealand, including Australia and Europe, had shown significant reductions in alcohol related crashes and fatalities when they set their levels at 50 mg,

"Research clearly shows there are no safe levels of alcohol for driving and I urge drivers to consider others. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, several families will lose loved ones.

"If you're going out, the only safe message is either to not drink, or to use designated drivers or other transport."

Police advise they intend to maintain significant pressure on drunk drivers, with further operations to follow.

Drink-Drive facts

  • Drink driving levels have begun rising and prosecutions have been increasing by around 1000 per year.

  • Alcohol-related injury crashes have been increasing and recently, the number of dead drunk drivers has also risen.

  • Alcohol surveys show that drink-drive rates have risen from 0.7% of late night drivers (2200 - 0200 Friday and Saturday nights) in 2004 to 0.9% in 2006 - a statistically significant increase.

  • Public Attitudes to Road Safety Survey has highlighted that less than 50% of drivers now believe it is likely they will be stopped at a checkpoint which is the lowest level since 1999.

  • Alcohol has a big effect on the way people drive. In fact, if you drink and drive (with a blood alcohol level over 80mg per 100ml) you are sixteen times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sober driver.

  • At 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, a driver is about sixteen times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as the same driver with a zero blood alcohol level.

  • For every 100 drunk drivers or riders killed in road crashes, there are 55 of their passengers and another 35 sober road users who die with them.

  • As crash severity increases, so does the contribution of driver alcohol. In New Zealand, over the years 2003 to 2006, driver alcohol was a factor in approximately 30% of fatal crashes, 18% of serious injury crashes and 11% of minor injury crashes.

  • Alcohol related injury crashes peak between the hours of 1800 and 0400 on Friday and Saturday nights and this why these operations are mainly conducted during these hours, although breath testing will be done "any time, anywhere".

  • The first Operation in 2007 breath tested more than 43,000 drivers nationally and also resulted in more than 350 facing prosecution.

  • The second in July 2007 tested more than 26,760 drivers, resulting in 236 prosecutions and a further 42 blood tests.

  • The current operations are intended to target drink driving behaviours prior to the high risk period over Christmas.


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