Drink-driving crackdown begins

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2012

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Today marks the start of the biggest campaign against drink-driving in Taranaki's history.

The launch of the Taranaki Daily News' None for the Road campaign comes 10 days after the death of a 26-year-old New Plymouth builder near Hawera in a car crash police believe involved alcohol.

Alcohol was involved in about 20 per cent of all serious injury and fatal crashes on Taranaki roads last year.

The region's roads are awash with drunk drivers, with 778 convicted for the year ended June 30, but the greatest concern for police is the number of recidivist offenders - those who have three or more convictions, and who continue to flout the law.

American research estimates a drink-driver could offend between 80 and 2000 times before getting caught.

The campaign, which is being spearheaded by the police and the Taranaki Daily News, will run until December 22 and aims to raise awareness of the problem, reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads and increase community involvement to help stop people from getting behind the wheel after drinking.

The campaign will include details about how police are tackling the problem, where recidivist drink-drivers or people who think they've got a problem can go for help, victims' stories and discussion of why driving after drinking is so dangerous.

It's being run in partnership with Roadsafe Taranaki, New Plymouth Injury Safe, Taranaki District Health Board and Tu Tama Wahine.

Senior Sergeant Allan Whaley said the campaign was only the beginning.

"It's not just a four-week operation, it is the start of an ongoing operation with police and partner agencies in Taranaki," Mr Whaley said.

Recently, police began visiting the 50 worst recidivist drink- drivers in the region, handing out packages with information on the services available if they wanted to get help and offering a subscription to the Taranaki Daily News so that they could follow the campaign.

Mr Whaley said police were also looking to establish guardians, either family members or people with strong connections to offenders, to act as mentors and help break the cycle.

"We are also asking members of the Taranaki community to take responsibility for safety within their community and to advise us when they encounter a person who they believe could be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs," Mr Whaley said.

He said that in recent times staff at fast food outlets and service stations had contacted police about drunk drivers.

"We want the community to work with us and show offenders that driving under the influence will not be tolerated."

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"We want the community to recognise that there is a huge problem and become actively involved in the solution."

Taranaki rural area commander Inspector Frank Grant said he hoped the campaign would raise awareness of the message not to drink-drive. "Drunk driving is and has been a major concern with regards to road trauma in our country for decades and it is still an issue," Mr Grant said.

"Unfortunately people are still driving while intoxicated on more than one occasion."

Mr Grant said the floor and front passenger's seat of one of the cars involved in the fatal crash that killed the builder 10 days ago was covered in empty bottles and cans of alcohol.

Roadsafe Taranaki co-ordinator Marion Webby said she wanted to see the community take greater responsibility to stop drunk drivers.

Roadsafe Taranaki is funding the newspaper subscriptions and Miss Webby hoped it would show recidivist drink-drivers and family and friends there were people who wanted to help. "If they haven't been caught or hurt in a crash they think they are OK."

BY THE NUMBERS

Land Transport New Zealand statistics show:

A driver over the legal alcohol limit is 16 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sober driver.

From 2006 to 2010 alcohol was a factor in 245 injury crashes in Taranaki.

75 per cent of drivers at fault in alcohol-related crashes were males and 40 per cent were under the age of 25.

WE SAY

Police pick up drink-drivers in Taranaki at a rate of more than two a day.

It is an unacceptably high number, and it is also an indication of the damage alcohol abuse causes to the community and families.

It is widely accepted that most drink drivers have offended many times before they are caught.

That is one reason why today the Taranaki Daily News launches None for the Road - a campaign designed to make our roads safer.

A similar campaign ran in our sister paper the Waikato Times, and using the same name, it helped reduce drink-drive numbers in that province in late 2002.

This version goes a step further. It is being run in conjunction with police and social agencies who combat drink driving - and deal with the impacts of it. We will talk to both the offenders and the victims, examine the impact alcohol has on the body and hear from agencies who are battling the problem.

Journalist Leighton Keith will co-ordinate a month-long series of stories and opinion pieces covering the full range of drink driving.

Police are urging recidivist drink-drivers to follow the stories, and the community to become actively involved in combating the problem.

Christmas is around the corner. A drunk driver should not be.

We urge motorists to heed the anti-drink-drive messages that will be dominating our pages over the next month.

- Taranaki Daily News

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