Drink driving operations record increase in detections this winter

A PSNI Road Policing officer prepares a breathalyser test during a random drink driving checkpoint. (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

A PSNI Road Policing officer prepares a breathalyser test during a random drink driving checkpoint. (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

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The number of drivers and motorcyclists detected drink-driving during the first three weeks of this year’s winter anti-drink drive campaign has risen by 1.7%, compared to the same period in 2015.

There has been a major increase in the number of patrols and checkpoints staged across Derry and the rest of the north over recent weeks following the introduction of new legislation which allows police to conduct random breath tests on motorists.

New figures released show that across the north, 241 drink drivers were detected between November 24 and December 18, four more than during the same period last year. This figure includes motorists who were unfit to drive, or who were unable or refused to give a sample.

PSNI Chief Inspector Diane Pennington said: “When we launched this operation at the end of November, we warned drivers not to take the risk because we would be using new legislation to perform random breath tests at vehicle checkpoints day and night across the country.

“We have already authorised over 667 checkpoints, specifically to identify drink-drivers. In the first week of the operation, there was a huge 45% increase in detections (74 compared with 51 for the previous year).

“Thankfully it would appear that many people are heeding our warnings as there has been a noticeable decline in the second and third weeks, despite the increase in preliminary tests being carried out.

“However it is difficult to accept these figures as a success. We shouldn’t be detecting anyone drink-driving. It’s disappointing that despite our warnings, there are still people who completely disregard the safety of themselves and others by continuing this shameful practice.”

Chf. Insp. Pennington said that just one drink can impair the ability to drive.

“Once again we have stopped some drivers who were so drunk, they could barely stand. This is just unacceptable behaviour,” she said.

“Just do not take the risk of having even one drink if you are driving. The consequences, as police officers and our emergency service colleagues witness first hand, can be catastrophic.”

In addition to the checkpoints, any driver or motorcyclist police now stop, whether for speeding, using a mobile phone, or committing any moving traffic offence can expect to be breathalysed.

So too can anyone involved in a collision, or who police suspect may have consumed alcohol or taken drugs.

“Our aim with this operation is to keep people safe,” Chf. Insp. Pennington said.