Booze bus leaves drivers breathless

By Andrew Koubaridis

A look of disbelief sweeps across the faces of motorists as they pull up to the alcohol check point in Hobson St. Disbelief, anger - and then concern.

The booze bus was parked in a spot most people wouldn't expect to see it, about 10.30pm on a Friday, causing unexpected delays and anguish for some Christmas revellers.

The bus is out as part of Auckland's regular anti-drink driving operations, 28 of which have been held this year in an attempt to make the roads safer.

The majority of the motorists stopped in the latest operation have nothing to worry about. They have either consumed no alcohol or amounts within the legal limit, but their voices still quiver slightly when they state their name and address.

Most are waved through but some are asked to undergo a further breath test to determine the amount they have had to drink - and if they're heading to the police station.

Most strike up a conversation with the officer. "Busy night tonight is it?" is the standard ice breaker as they look worryingly towards the police officer holding the breathalyser.

Motorists spoken to by the Herald said they knew they were well under the limit, but still had trouble maintaining composure.

"My hands were sweating and I probably looked guilty but I only had two beers," one man said.

Another confessed to having driven drunk before but not in years.

"I think it's great what they're [police] doing. It might annoy some ... but if it means one person is going to get home to their family tonight, it's worth it."

Sergeant Harry Henderson was at a checkpoint on Jellicoe Rd that stopped over 200 motorists in just over an hour. Three were over the limit.

Mr Henderson told the Herald most people were heading home after end-of-the-week drinks, but had planned ahead with a sober driver at the ready.

But sometimes police spot other laws that are being flouted.

"There was a 14-month-old standing on the floor of the front seat passenger side, looking out. If there had been a crash it would have gone straight out the windscreen," Mr Henderson said.

Inspector Dave Walker, officer in charge of the Auckland motorways and Traffic Alcohol Group, said there had been 28 drink-driving operations in Auckland in 2007, additional to the national "raid" operations.

Further blitzes were planned.

"They can expect to see us at all the beach resorts - Piha, Muriwai, Long Bay ... you name it, we'll be there."

Beer stings

* Police ran four nationwide drink-driving stings, dubbed Operation Raid, throughout 2007.

* More than 150,000 drivers were stopped in four blitzes in May, July, November and December.

* 1163 were caught driving drunk.

* There were a further 28 drink-drive operations in Auckland alone, with hundreds more netted.

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