Take keys from drunks if you have to - police

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
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JONATHAN CAMERON

Sergeant Shane Hurliman, head of the New Plymouth Traffic and Alcohol Group, TAG.

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A recidivist drunk driver was taken off Taranaki roads hours before a Traffic and Alcohol Group (TAG) operation got under way yesterday.

The 43-year-old Waitara man had a breath alcohol level of 1190 micrograms, almost three times the legal limit of 400mcg, when he was pulled over in Bell Block just before 2pm.

The driver, who had 10 previous convictions for drunk driving and was indefinitely disqualified from driving, was dobbed in by another motorist.

Sergeant Shane Hurliman, head of the New Plymouth TAG, said he would encourage other members of the public to get in behind the efforts to combat drunk drivers.

"I don't even have a problem with members of the public who will step in and forcibly remove keys from the ignition," Mr Hurliman said.

"It's a classic example that at any time of the day there are drunk drivers out on the road and people need to be aware."

He said the man's extremely high reading was an alarming trend.

"There was a time when readings of up to and over 1000 micrograms were few and far between. Now they are becoming commonplace.

"Obviously a person who is blowing two, three, four times the legal limit is going to be that much less capable of driving correctly out on the road. They are a greater risk to other road users."

Mr Hurliman said the TAG was stopping between 7000 and 9000 drivers a month and catching about 30 drivers over the limit.

As Christmas and New Year's Eve approach TAG will be out in force and taking every opportunity to pull drivers over and they make no apologies for it.

"I would rather process a drunk driver than have to pull them out of a car wreck," Mr Hurliman said.

Last night the TAG unit sealed off the roads around New Plymouth's Pukekura Raceway checking drivers leaving a race meeting before setting up other checkpoints around the city.

Hand-held "sniffers" were used to check if drivers had been drinking and the ACC booze bus was on hand to process any drunk drivers.

Mr Hurliman said the bus was a vital tool which had two evidential breath-testing machines and all of the necessary equipment to allow officers to work independently of a police station.

Checkpoints were set up so drivers had nowhere to go.

"We will set up checkpoints in strategic locations whereby once a driver is upon us there is very little he can do to escape the situation," he said.

Mr Hurliman said there was no excuse for driving drunk.

"Our advice to anyone contemplating drinking and driving, put your hand in your pocket and get your wallet out, have you got 20 bucks in there? Use it. Twenty bucks is a hell of a lot less than a five, six, seven or eight hundred dollar fine. It's a hell of a lot less than having your car confiscated, which many of these recidivist offenders are facing."

By the end of the night more than 1000 drivers had been stopped and, while some were showing traces of alcohol, none had exceeded the limit. Mr Hurliman said it was a pleasing result.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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