Police target boozy drivers on rural roads

By Brendan Manning, Lydia Anderson

Police will be breath-testing drivers and enforcing holiday weekend speed limits to maintain safety on the roads this long weekend.
Police will be breath-testing drivers and enforcing holiday weekend speed limits to maintain safety on the roads this long weekend.

Police are warning Hawke's Bay motorists to think twice before drinking and driving this Labour Weekend, especially on rural roads where most drink-drive fatalities occur.

More than 30 people have lost their lives on the region's roads in alcohol-fuelled crashes since 2008 and hundreds of others have been injured.

Nationwide, more than twice as many people are dying in alcohol-related crashes on rural than on urban roads and Hawke's Bay police will be breath testing drivers and enforcing holiday period speed limits this weekend.

Figures released by the New Zealand Transport Agency under the Official Information Act show in the past five years, 476 alcohol-related fatal crashes were recorded on rural roads and 174 on urban roads. In Hawke's Bay, 26 alcohol-related crash fatalities were recorded on rural roads and six on urban roads during the same period.

Police said recording of alcohol-related crashes was higher on urban roads because of an increased police presence in high-traffic areas.

Hawke's Bay road policing team Senior Sergeant Greg Brown said there was an increased focus from rural staff.

"Enough is enough," he said. "We want to stop people from harming themselves on the road, and we will also take any enforcement action necessary."

He said people should arrange to have a sober driver or alternative transport so they "don't take the risk of hurting themselves or someone else".

There would be a reduced speed tolerance this weekend and people flouting it could expect to receive infringement notices.

"We've got a significant road policing focus, which will involve not only road policing and alcohol staff, but other staff from community, youth [teams], etc. So there will be a very visible presence on the state highways.

"Fatigue is an issue, so we're encouraging regular stops."

Road Safe Hawke's Bay regional manager Linda Anderson said fewer drivers under the age of 25 were now failing roadside breath tests at police checkpoints.

"We're [aware] that 'drive sober' message is getting out there and it's very pleasing that it's getting [through] to the younger population."

Older drivers sometimes had a misconception they could handle drinking and driving, she said.

"They'll always be a hard to reach group, particularly with those entrenched behaviours that they've done it for 30 years."

Driver fatigue was an added problem at Labour Weekend.

"It's a short break but people try to pack a lot into it, so they're probably pushing themselves a lot more than they should."

Three fatigue stops will be set up this weekend at Raupunga on Friday, State Highway 5 at the Mohaka rest stop on Saturday, and Waipukurau on Monday, as part of enforced police stops with random breath testing.

Six people died on the nation's roads last Labour Weekend.

National manager road policing Superintendent Carey Griffiths said alcohol-related crashes were often associated with speed and not wearing seatbelts.

"Drink-drivers are not only killing themselves, they are killing other innocent road users. For every 100 alcohol-impaired drivers or riders who died in a road crash from 2010 to 2012, 53 of their passengers and 18 other road users died with them."

Rural alcohol-related drink driving fatal and serious injury crashes had a rate of 38 per 100,000 population, compared with urban crashes of 8 per 100,000 population, he said.

"The consequences of a 50km/h crash are less disastrous than a 100km/h crash, regardless of the environment, but rural areas are compounded by terrain, lots of bridges, culverts, drops and the fact that injured people can lie undiscovered for hours or sometimes days."

A private member's bill which would reduce the amount of alcohol New Zealanders could legally drink before driving was pulled from the ballot last month.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway's Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill would lower the allowable blood alcohol content for adults from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg per 100ml.

The Government is already reviewing New Zealand's drink-drive limits, which are among the highest in the world.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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