Few drivers over limit in booze blitz

By Anna Leask

Police encouraged by low 'hit' rate but say Kiwi 'drink to get drunk' culture is still alive. Photo / Martin Sykes
Police encouraged by low 'hit' rate but say Kiwi 'drink to get drunk' culture is still alive. Photo / Martin Sykes

Less than 1 per cent of motorists breath-tested in a nationwide booze blitz over the weekend were over the legal breath-alcohol limit.

On Friday and Saturday, police administered 53,036 breath tests to drivers around the country. Only 467 recorded positive tests.

Police say the result is encouraging, but does not mean the Kiwi "drink to get drunk" culture is subsiding.

Thousands of officers patrolled streets and roads, visited hotels and ran underage sales stings at liquor stores as part of Operation Unite - a two-day campaign run here and in Australia.

It was the fourth time police on both sides of the Tasman have worked together to target alcohol-related harm and crime.

But the top cop in charge of the New Zealand arm of the blitz said it would take more than a weekend of action to change old habits.

"Sadly, all too often police, health and other agencies are left picking up the pieces of what started as someone's night of fun," said Detective Superintendent Ross Grantham.

"All we're asking is that people, no matter what their age, make safe and sensible choices when and where they decide to have a drink."

Of the drink-drivers, two were Auckland recidivists who blew more than 1000mcg/l. The limit is 400mcg/l.

Another woman was stopped in Roxburgh, central Otago, with a breath-alcohol level of 929mcg/l.

A Dunedin motorist was also stopped while driving on the wrong side of the road with a breath-alcohol level of 636mcg/l.

Provisional figures released yesterday also showed 778 people were arrested for alcohol-related offences and 94 for breaching liquor bans.

Police visited 1378 hotels and bars to check compliance and ran 267 controlled purchase operations at liquor stores - with alcohol being sold to 70 minors.

Alcohol-related assaults were also targeted, with 17 reported on Friday and 289 on Saturday.

Mr Grantham said the message from police was simple.

"If you are going to drink, then be sensible, responsible and safe about it. Be a good host and make sure you don't drive if you've been drinking."

Waikato district commander Superintendent Win Van der Velde said the risks posed by impaired drivers affected by drugs and alcohol - no matter what time of day - and the willingness to sell alcohol to minors were two serious problems identified through the operation.

OPERATION UNITE

* 53,036 drivers breath-tested.

* 467 drink-drivers.

* 778 arrests for alcohol-related crime.

* 64 assaults.

* 267 liquor stores visited in controlled-purchase operations.

* 70 minors sold alcohol in liquor stores.

* 94 arrests for liquor ban breaches.

- NZ Herald

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