Rural communities still need to address the issue of
drink-driving, with the key issue being planning how to get
home safely, police say.
Figures from police show they have processed more than 1000
drivers for excess breath-alcohol in the rural communities of
the southern police district in the past three years.
Acting Southern district road policing manager Senior
Sergeant Steve Larking said Otago and Southland had a larger
and more widely dispersed rural population than some parts of
''Like any rural area there can at times be a problem with
people drinking in isolated areas and then making a bad
decision to drive home. The key message is to plan how you
will safely get home if you have been out drinking, to avoid
making a bad decision.''
He said that while many rural people understood and took on
board the drink-driving message,
there was still a long way to go in terms of ownership of the
issue among rural communities.
It was fair to say drink-driving was an issue in many
communities, both rural and urban, and the behaviours and
choices that created risk were similar in each, he said.
''Rural people are more likely to drive in environments where
the majority of roads have a 100kmh speed limit and often
road conditions can be more challenging, such as gravel or
narrow roads. These factors do mean that if they are already
engaging in a risky behaviour such as drinking and driving,
they can be more likely to become victims of a road crash
either through serious injury or death.''
He said the issue tended to be a bit more complex in rural
areas due to those factors, including the greater reliance of
people on their own means of transport.
In July this year, 1920 drivers were processed for excess
breath-alcohol nationally, with 64 in Otago. Of these 64, 31
were in the Dunedin area, 13 in Clutha, eight in Central
Otago, and six each in the Queenstown and Waitaki areas.
Sergeant Bruce Martin, of the Alexandra-based rural
drink-drive team, said he had noticed an attitude change
towards drink-driving over the past five years.
However, rural communities still had issues to address.
In isolated areas the key was to break the routine of
drink-driving home from the pub, he said.
''It [drink-driving] does not discriminate. We see people
from all walks of life and we have heard every excuse for it
under the sun.''
A Central Otago man, who wished to remain anonymous, told the
Otago Daily Times he was caught drink-driving by Sgt Martin
and his team about four years ago.
The man had ''a few drinks really quickly'' after doing
''community stuff'' as a part of the Blossom Festival in
''I thought I was fine to drive, so I drove home.''
On the way home he was stopped by Sgt Martin, failed the
roadside breath-screening test and recorded a level of 575mcg
after an evidential breath test.
''It was the worst thing that happened to me ... it was
horrible. You had to tell your family, your wife, your kids,
your boss. The worst part was telling everyone, but going to
court was horrible, too.''
He was fined $400 and disqualified from driving for six
''For me it really was a wake-up call. People don't realise
what a hassle it is, having a criminal conviction. It's just
not worth it.''
However, something positive did come from the incident.
''The spin-off is that it gave all my friends a wake-up call,
too. None of them would now drink and drive.''
''We've all got a responsibility to be safe road users, for
ourselves, our friends and family and the wider community and
others. We're also all in a position to have a positive
influence on the behaviour of others,'' Snr Sgt Larking said.