Booze bus encounter a life-changing experience

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2014

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Driving into a police checkpoint with too much booze in her blood flicked a switch in Tia Hopper.

She was grateful to be caught.

Had Hopper continued down that road she may have learnt the lesson in another way. Perhaps from a power pole or another motorist. Power poles at least reflect your own stupidity and mortality. Taking another person's life, or altering the rest of it through a serious injury, is another, life-long, sentence.

The 20-year-old mother-to-be drove out of her Cussen St house on Thursday evening and into the hands of police, again. They'd set up their booze bus around the corner on Clarkin Rd.

Hopper and the father of her child, Viani Pitman, 21, were off to get fish and chips. Yet Hopper's licence had not been renewed. As she waited for the police officer's verdict, she admitted that she was a drunk driver once.

"I had my licence disqualified. I was grateful that it was a booze bus and not a power pole, or someone else. That's what woke me up. I could have been in jail for killing someone else or I could have got caught. I'm pretty sober now."

Hopper and Pitman were ordered home, immediately.

Constable Dale Colmore-Williams was the senior at the checkpoint. His is one of three Waikato road policing teams that operate under the Traffic Alcohol Group banner. Every week, on the busiest days, one operates in the city and another goes rural.

Overall, drunk driving apprehensions are trending down, yet they're still out there.

"We've stopped several hundred drivers [on Clarkin] and no motorists were apprehended, which is always a positive sign," Colmore-Williams said.

"Especially when you've got a high volume area that has previously resulted in several intoxicated motorists."

While there were three fatal alcohol-related crashes in the district last year, things appear to be improving.

Police data shows that over the past five years there has been a 24 per cent drop in offences nationally and a 35 per cent drop in Waikato.

Nationally, the total number of drinkers caught behind the wheel fell from 35,962 in 2009 to 27,295 in 2013. In Waikato, the trend was more pronounced, with a drop from 3414 in 2009 to 2200 in the 2013 calendar year.

Last year the TAG team stopped more than 200,000 drivers.

"A few hundred drunk drivers extracted from several hundred thousand is a positive result. It shows there is a change in the driving culture I believe."

Gary Brodie, 53, was stopped on Thursday, too.

"I think [the checkpoint] shows the police are out there, so there's no drinking and driving and I think it's improved since I was younger. I would have no more than two beers [before driving]. I just don't want to risk it."

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- Waikato Times

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