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Hundreds of motorists arrested in Northern Ireland drink drive crackdown - 700 police checkpoints

Hundreds of people have been caught drink-driving in Northern Ireland, as part of the PSNI's 2016 Christmas drink drive crackdown.

Preliminary figures show 241 drivers were arrested on suspicion of being under the influence between November 24 and December 18. That's a small increase of 1.7% compared to the previous year.

Police said some drivers caught were so drunk they could barely stand.

Over the past three weeks almost 700 PSNI checkpoints were put in place across Northern Ireland.

And in the first week there was a 45% increase in detections compared to the same period in 2015.

Police said people were caught at all times of the day and the early figures indicated there were more men caught than women.

Chief Inspector Diane Pennington said: “When we launched this operation at the end of last month, we warned drivers not to take the risk because we would be using new legislation to perform random breath tests at vehicle checkpoints day and night across the country.

"Thankfully it would appear that many people are heeding our warnings as there has been a noticeable decline in the second and third weeks, despite the increase in preliminary tests being carried out.

“However, it is difficult to accept these figures as a success. We shouldn’t be detecting anyone drink driving. It’s disappointing that despite our warnings, there are still people who completely disregard the safety of themselves and others by continuing this shameful and incredibly dangerous practice.

“Just one drink can impair ability to drive. Once again we have stopped some drivers who were so drunk, they could barely stand. This is just unacceptable behaviour."

Chief Inspector Pennington added: “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.

“In addition to the checkpoints, any driver or motorcyclist we stop, 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 we suspect may have consumed alcohol or taken drugs.

“To date this year 66 people have lost their lives in crashes on our roads and many more have been seriously injured, so I am also appealing for all road users and pedestrians to exercise caution and put road safety first.

“With longer hours of darkness and winter weather, road users need to make extra effort to look out for pedestrians and cyclists particularly along rural roads.  Pedestrians and cyclists should wear bright clothing, reflective jackets or armbands where possible to ensure they can be seen.

“Our aim with this operation is to keep people safe. People need to put as much effort into planning how to get home safely, as they do planning their night out. I do not want police officers knocking on doors at any time of the year, but especially over Christmas and the New Year, to tell families that a loved one has been killed on the roads.

"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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