Push to curb drink-driving

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Sergeant George White prepares to breath test a driver
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
ZERO TOLERANCE: Sergeant George White prepares to breath test a driver as police step up efforts to combat drink-driving in Taranaki.

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Police have put Taranaki's recidivist drink-drivers on notice - we're watching you.

In a unique approach to the problem, police recently visited 50 of the region's worst offenders, delivering packages detailing what help is available and offering a free subscription to the Taranaki Daily News. Many of the offenders have more than five convictions.

Police are urging offenders to take up the offer so they can follow an upcoming campaign outlining the dangers and potential consequences of drink-driving.

Sergeant George White, New Plymouth road policing supervisor, said the programme had been adapted from a similar one used in Gisborne.

"It was not as intensive as what we are doing. We hope to try and improve the behaviour of these people who pose a serious risk on the road," Mr White said.

"They're not only a danger to themselves but to their families and everyone else who uses the road, which is all of us."

Mr White hoped the scheme would make people think before drink-driving.

"Catching them is a deterrent but trying to stop them in the first place makes it safer for everyone."

Taranaki rural area commander Inspector Frank Grant said recidivist drink-drivers had been identified as a specific area of concern.

"We thought that it would be best to target recidivist drunk drivers. We found that there is quite a number of them in Taranaki," he said.

Alcohol was involved in a high percentage of all fatal motor vehicle accidents.

"It's relatively high and the sad thing about it is there is a number of innocent victims that can be affected by the behaviour of drink-drivers," Mr Grant said.

He hoped the face-to-face contact would change the attitudes of recidivist drink-drivers.

"It has worked in other fields of policing such as family violence and prisoners who have been released back into the community."

Mr Grant said the unique approach was about prevention and trying to help the offenders.

"Rather than just sitting back and waiting and sitting outside pubs trying to catch them, we thought we would be proactive and try to nip it in the bud beforehand and show we are concerned with their behaviour and we are there to try and help them to change that type of behaviour."

Family members had also been spoken to by police and it was hoped they would help reinforce the message.

"They might be able to assist preventing their loved ones from drinking and driving, whether it's by calling police, talking to them directly or by taking their keys," Mr Grant said.

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Police fully supported the Daily News campaign, he said.

"At the end of the day it may have a lasting effect on one or two. I think if we can achieve a positive result for a small handful, then it's successful."

The Daily News campaign will be launched on November 26 and aims to reduce the number of drink-drivers on the region's roads. It is being run in partnership with police, Roadsafe Taranaki, New Plymouth Injury Safe, Taranaki District Health Board and Tu Tama Wahine.

Roadsafe Taranaki co-ordinator Marion Webby supported the measures taken by police.

"I think it's a fantastic idea," Miss Webby said. "Too many people get hurt or killed on our roads because of drunk drivers."

Roadsafe will fund the newspaper subscriptions on offer.

Daily News editor Roy Pilott said the campaign would be of educational value.

"It would be easy to simply run a name-and-shame series of stories, and we will look at some of those cases, but we are more interested in showing recidivist drink-drivers what damage they cause both on the road and to their families.

"Just this week we have read of a case where a Taranaki woman was convicted of drink-driving for a fifth time. As much as the community should be protected from her, she also needs help."

- Taranaki Daily News

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