New statistics show Northland's roads carry among the highest risk in the country of motorists being seriously hurt or killed because of drugs or alcohol.
The stark warning is a contrast to other figures from our justice system which show our drink driving prosecutions sit in the middle of national rankings.
Police have told the Advocate that our region is too vast and far-flung for police to have road policing patrols that will catch every drunk or high driver.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's Communities at Risk register showed Northland was one of five region's, from 14, with the highest personal risk of death or serious injury related to drugs and alcohol.
The register identified Northland as one of two regions, alongside Gisborne, with a high concern about the likelihood of alcohol or drugs causing a serious crash its road network.
The statistics are supported by police data from this year showing five of the 17 fatal crashes before June involved drugs, three involved alcohol, one was a mixture of both, and two were awaiting results.
Acting Northland road policing manager Steve Dickson said around one in every three crashes involves impairment as a contributing factor.
In recent months, Northland police have focused on breath-testing which has seen an average of 30 drink drivers prosecuted each week. Many of these drivers hailed from remote rural communities and were travelling long distances on open roads with 100km/h speed limits.
Overall, around 460 people per 100,000 are put through Northland's courts for exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit.
The highest prosecution rate was in the Tasman police district with 1167 people prosecuted per 100,000; followed by Auckland City, and Eastern. The lowest prosecution rate was in Waitemata with 173 people per every 100,000.
Dickson said increasing the number of people they tested had led to a higher number going through the courts.
"Our aim is to see a decrease in the number of apprehensions over time through a change in drink-driving culture," he said.
"By stopping and testing drivers for alcohol and or drug impairment, we have an opportunity to remove them from the road and potentially save lives and prevent crashes."
Dickson said police had to work strategically to overcome their resources stretched thin by other crimes.
"The police cannot be everywhere, we deploy our staff based on risk, so the public can expect to see us breath testing drivers were and when we know crashes often occur," he said.
"We also rely on the public to do the right thing, by choosing not to drink and drive, looking after your whānau and family and stopping them from getting behind the wheel if they've been drinking."
As the Advocate previously reported, high demands of family harm call outs absorbed a huge portion of police resources and time.
Senior Constable Warren Bunn, of the police Serious Crash Unit, said the public expectation for police to be wherever an impaired driver might be failed to acknowledge how big and remote Northland was.
He said crashes occurred late at night when there were fewer police on duty because the demand was lighter.
"We have more police staff during day time because there's a lot more people out and about and the risk is higher."
Almost half of Northland's 410 police constables were based in Whangārei; with Kerikeri, Kaitaia, and Dargaville the next heavily staffed stations.
Dickson said every police officer was trained and equipped to deal with drink drivers and breath testing devices were assigned to staff in almost every work group across the district.
Far North REAP road safety manager Angelene Waitohi said it became more difficult for police to catch impaired drivers towards the top of the country.
"That's why we do a huge amount of work with police around road safety education, where our teams go into those areas to do road safety check points," she said.
Northland police had established an Impairment Team in Kaitaia late last year to improve road safety at the top of the region.
For the last 12-years Far North REAP have been using these educational check points to instil in motorists a sense of the consequences of driving impaired.
"We remind them if you get caught, you'll lose your license, you'll lose your job because you can't get to work anymore."
The group also ran education sessions in local marae about the dangers of drink-driving and how to stop those who had been drinking from driving.
As part of their work changing these mindsets the Far North REAP rolled out a powerful campaign, "One tear too many", in their communities to remind people of the ripple effect drink-driving had.
RoadSafe Northland programme manager Ashley Johnston said while police hold both a prevention and enforcement role in our community, everyone needed to take responsibility for our safety.