Be merry, but skip the drink

By Amy McGillivray

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Police are once again ramping up their efforts to discourage drink driving during the festive season.

Signs displaying the number of drunk drivers caught in the Western Bay since the start of November have popped up around town during the past few weeks.

Western Bay of Plenty road policing manager Ian Campion said it is just one part of the drink-driving crackdown known as Operation Profile.

The operation kicked off on Labour Weekend and runs until January 13, 2013.

In the first three weeks of November, 61 drivers were charged with intoxication, according to the signs.

Mr Campion said that was only a fraction of the 1055 drunk or drugged drivers already snapped in the Western Bay between January 1 and November 14.

"There are still far too many drunk drivers out there," Mr Campion said.

"They are sharing the roads with innocent road users and their families. I just don't understand why people would take that risk."

Mr Campion said there had been a slight improvement in driver behaviour on last year.

"We're down slightly on last year but 1055 in 10.5 months, that's not good enough," he said.

"Those are the one's that we've caught. There would be double the number out there using our roads when they are intoxicated."

Mr Campion said the biggest improvement had been among drivers 20 years and younger.

Young drivers now only made up 20 per cent of drunk drivers as opposed to 27 per cent last year, he said.

"The under-20s are still leading the way in terms of drink driving reduction. They are actually setting the standards for everyone to follow.

"They still have a way to go yet but they are making a difference."

In contrast, Western Bay motorists are getting the message about the danger of using cellphones. Mr Campion said only seven drivers were caught using their cellphones in the area during the police crackdown last week.

"That's a great result," he said.

It was part of a nationwide blitz to coincide with the anniversary of the introduction of legislation banning mobile phone use while driving.

"I think the advertising jogged a lot of people's memories and reminded them," Mr Campion said.

"That sort of distraction does cause crashes."

Superintendent Carey Griffiths, National Manager Road Policing, said the national infringement numbers would not be known for a few weeks but feedback from the campaign was positive.

Many of those caught were contrite about being ticketed and said it was about time they were caught to stop them doing it again, Mr Griffiths said.

"The good thing is that people seem to be taking on board the message that it's not okay to be on the open road at 100 km/h and not be giving your full attention to driving because you're using your phone or handheld device to send a text or check an email, as nothing is that important," he said.

In the first year of the ban 317 tickets were issued in the Bay of Plenty policing district but that figure had risen to 579 in the past 12 months.

More than 28,000 tickets have been issued nationwide since the legislation came into effect, including 11,342 in the past 12 months.

As part of last week's campaign police also checked that people were wearing seatbelts and using the correct child restraints.

Mr Campion said the 47 infringement notices issued for non-compliance was disappointing.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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