Drink driving: 72 people allegedly caught in first week of PSNI Christmas campaign
Early statistics from the PSNI show that 72 people have allegedly been caught drink driving in the first week of the annual Christmas campaign.
SDLP Policing Board member Daniel McCrossan has said he is shocked by the figures.
Mr McCrossan said: "I was shocked to learn from the PSNI today that in the first week of their Christmas campaign alone, they’ve caught 72 people drink driving. There is absolutely no excuse for getting behind the wheel while drunk. Those who do recklessly put their own life and the lives of all those they encounter on the road at risk. It just isn’t worth it.
"It’s particularly worrying that the numbers caught are so high before the annual Christmas parties have really started. I would appeal to everyone to exercise care, look after their own well being and the well being of friends and colleagues - don’t get behind the wheel and don’t let others get behind the wheel of they’ve been drinking."
The MLA added: "The last thing anyone needs at this time of year is an empty seat around the table. I’ll continue working with the police and other agencies to promote road safety in the weeks ahead and do all we can to minimise tragedy on our roads."
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said new powers enabled officers to set up checkpoints specifically aimed at catching drivers who are over the limit.
Launching the annual campaign last week Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "This new legislation gives police another tool that will hopefully help us to prevent people taking life-threatening, unacceptable, simply stupid risks.
"Previously, police officers needed a reasonable suspicion about the manner of someone's driving, have seen a moving traffic offence, or been called to a collision before requiring a preliminary breath test from a driver. The new legislation means we can now establish vehicle checkpoints solely for the purpose of carrying out random breath tests, something which we hope will act as an even more visible, physical deterrent."
Last year 375 people were caught driving while under the influence of alcohol - a rise on the 282 detained the previous year.
They ranged in age from 16 to 83 years old and included one individual who was so drunk they could barely stand up and another boozy motorist who was apprehended twice in two months.
The highest reading was 140 micrograms - four times the legal limit.
Mr Todd said operations to catch drink drivers would be run throughout the day and night in the weeks leading up to Christmas and into the new year.
Police will also coordinate road safety operations in border counties with colleagues from An Garda Siochana Traffic Corp.
Any motorist stopped can expect to be breathalysed, warned Mr Todd.
The senior officer added: "Let me be absolutely clear. If you find yourself asking the question, I wonder if I'm OK to drive? The answer is - you are not. Do not take the risk. The consequences, as police officers and our emergency service colleagues witness first hand, can be catastrophic.
"I want all motorists to think about the consequences to yourself and your family of being involved in a serious collision. How would you feel if your actions resulted in you or one of your family being paralysed? How would you feel if some innocent person was killed? Consider too the impact of losing your driving licence. Would you also lose your job? Your home?"