Police promise holiday drink-driving crackdown

Drink-driving in rural Otago is on the increase and police say they will crack down on drivers over the entire region during this holiday period.

According to New Zealand Police statistics released to the Otago Daily Times, southern drivers convicted of drink-driving are on average more intoxicated than those in the rest of New Zealand.

Incidences of drink-driving in the Southern police district have decreased from last year, in line with the national trend, but after falling below 500 in 2010-11, prosecutions from rural Otago and Southland rose to 513 last year.

Sergeant Bruce Martin, of the police Rural Drive Group, said this was because of an internal campaign by police which resulted in more drunk drivers being caught in high-risk areas.

Queenstown, which comes under the rural Otago umbrella, had a high drink-driving rate because of its tourist population, being a holiday resort and the fact the town had only three entry and exit points, he said.

Until this year, he said, Otago rural drivers were showing signs of being sensible behind the wheel. A total of 513 drink-drivers were prosecuted in 2012 - an increase of 36 over last year.

The number of drink-drivers in Southland had increased from 639 last year to 752, and Sgt Martin said offences in Invercargill were a key driver of this statistic.

''We always seem to have plenty of work when we go down there,'' he observed. Dunedin drivers had shown they were becoming more responsible on the roads, with 510 drink-drive offenders this year, well down from the 613 in 2011.

Sgt Martin said this was cyclical and showed people in the city were listening to enforcement messages.

Last week his staff stopped 12,500 vehicles in Dunedin and Invercargill between Thursday and Saturday nights and charged just two people with drink-driving.

Police statistics also show the levels of intoxication in the entire southern region were higher than the national average, with 8.1% of those caught recording a breath-alcohol level higher than 1000mcg, compared with the national figure of 6.1%.

Sgt Martin said rural parts of the country still held on to a drink-driving culture where people thought they could beat the law.

''It's that same old story of `I'll take the back road and the car knows the way home'.''

He promised police would be showing up at the most ''unknown and unexpected'' of places and at any time, both ''day and night''.

His advice was to plan ahead with courtesy coaches or sober drivers and: ''If you're drinking, don't drive a car. It takes all the guesswork out of it.''

Drinking and driving
• Nationally, drink-driver numbers increase from about 6pm, but in the Southern region increase from 8pm. Southern district has third-lowest number of total offences and the third-lowest rate of offending per 10,000 population.
• Nationally, more drivers are apprehended on Friday nights than Saturday nights, but Southern police record a higher percentage of offending on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
• Nationally, those caught were from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, India, Ireland, South Africa, the UK and the US.
• Just one drink-driver was caught by police in the Otago rural region out of 5000 stopped during last year's December 29-January 2 holiday period.

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