Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Number of people arrested for drink driving in Northern Ireland during winter crackdown

By Claire Williamson

More than 380 people have been arrested for drink driving over winter in Northern Ireland during a police crackdown.

The number of drivers and motorcyclists detected drink driving during the 2016/17 winter anti-drink drive operation is down very slightly by 4%, compared to the same time last year. 383 people were arrested despite a 125% increase in tests with police testing nearly 11,000 people.

New legislation introduced in November has handed officers in Northern Ireland the ability to randomly test people without reasonable suspicion of an offence.

Previously, a car could only be pulled over if it appeared the driver was under the influence.

The youngest person arrested in the past year was 17-years-old compared to 16-years-old in 2015/16.

The oldest was aged 80 compared to 83 in 2015/16.

Out of the 383 arrested 306 were men (85%) along with 52 females (15%). This is compared to 306 (82%) men in 2015/16 and 67 women (18%). A proportion in each year were not recorded.

Belfast was the area which recorded the highest number of arrests with 62. This was the same as the previous year but is down slightly as it recorded 69 in 2015/16.

The next highest was Newry, Mourne and Down with 39 arrests.

Ards and North Down and Mid and East Antrim had the lowest with 25.

According to preliminary figures released on Monday the drink drivers were detected between November 24 2016 and January 3 2017 which is 16 less than during the previous winter operation.

Police said one person was detected at over four times the drink drive limit, with a reading of 149 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millimetres of breath while the legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.

Officers said they had people "literally falling out of their cars and people detected throughout the day and night across the country".

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "383 people failed those tests; so once again, it is difficult to accept these figures as a success.

He continued: "Nearly 300 people received warnings because while they provided a positive breath sample, they were below the legal limit. We shouldn’t be detecting people driving with any alcohol in their system. It’s disappointing that despite our continued warnings, publicity and media coverage generated by this policing operation, that a minority of people completely disregarded the safety of themselves and others by continuing this shameful and incredibly dangerous practice.

“Nearly 400 people across Northern Ireland are now facing the stark reality a court appearance where they will most likely lose their driving license for one or more years, be fined, and will have great difficulty in obtaining car insurance in the future.

“Many also risk losing their jobs or going to jail. The alternative consequences had they not been caught do not bear thinking about. Each one of these drink-drive detections has potentially saved lives.

“Police will continue to detect people who insist on driving after having taken drugs or alcohol. We are again appealing for all motorists to consider the consequences of their actions. Just do not take the risk of having even one drink if you are driving. The consequences, as police officers and our emergency service colleagues witness first hand, can be catastrophic."

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said he was appealing for all road users to "exercise caution and put road safety first".

“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 save lives on our roads.”

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