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Random breath test checks as police use new powers

By Brett Campbell

Published 25/11/2016

Police launch the annual winter drink-drive operation in east Belfast
Police launch the annual winter drink-drive operation in east Belfast

The PSNI will be using new powers from today to perform random breath tests at vehicle checkpoints.

The force's annual Christmas and New Year drink-driving crackdown was launched yesterday - with police keen to warn drivers that the new legislation will make it even harder to avoid being caught.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd warned that any driver or motorcyclist stopped, whether for speeding, using a mobile phone, or committing any moving traffic offence, can expect to be breathalysed. So too can anyone involved in a collision or who is suspected of having consumed alcohol or to have taken drugs.

Before today officers were required to have a reasonable suspicion about someone's driving, witnessed an offence, or have been called to a collision before they were allowed to carry out a breath test.

Now they don't.

Mr Todd said: "Our basic message remains the same, there is no safe limit. So never, ever drink and drive.

"This new legislation gives police another tool that will hopefully help us to prevent people taking life-threatening, unacceptable, simply stupid risks."

During last year's campaign 4,321 drivers were tested and 375 of them were over the limit.

That figure was up from 282 the previous year.

"Among those caught were people who had gone out to socialise with no intention to drink, but changed their minds," said Mr Todd.

The officer explained incidents included drivers who were so intoxicated they could barely stand up when they got out of their vehicles.

He said that "just beggars belief", and warned that taking the risk "inevitably results in a driving ban".

The youngest person caught in the 2015/16 campaign was just 16. The oldest was 83.

Police will again be co-ordinating road safety operations in border counties with colleagues from the Garda in a bid to catch offenders throughout the day and night.

Mr Todd warned: "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."

Referring to the 61 people killed so far this year on our roads, the Assistant Chief Constable added: "If everyone slowed down, did not drive after drinking or taking drugs, wore a seatbelt and drove with greater care and attention, then together we can reduce this preventable carnage on our roads."

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