Police launch winter anti-drink driving campaign in NI

383 people were caught drink driving in Northern Ireland during the initial lockdown period. Credit: Pacemaker

Police have launched their annual winter anti-drink and drug drive operation, along with a range of safety and protection measures in place taking Covid-19 into account.

It comes as new figures reveal that during the initial lockdown period between March and May, despite a significant reduction in road traffic, police detected 383 people drink driving in Northern Ireland.

This compares to 469 detections during the same time period in 2019 - which represents a drop of only 18.3%.

The PSNI has a put out the clear message that no one should take the risk and drive under influence this festive season.

Additional safety protocols will be in place to protect motorists and officers during the month-long operation. Credit: Pacemaker

The head of Roads Policing has said it is important that, despite circuit-breaker restrictions being in place as a result of the pandemic, the campaign is as important as ever.

Chief Inspector Diane Pennington said: “While we appreciate that many people may question the necessity of this operation, given the ongoing temporary closure of the hospitality industry and people curtailing their social lives."

She continued: "However the stark reality is that police are still detecting people drink and drug driving on a daily basis across Northern Ireland. "

Over the coming weeks, police will be running targeted operations across Northern Ireland and will be working alongside An Garda Síochána Traffic Corp in border counties.

As of Wednesday, 54 people have been killed as a result of road traffic collisions in Northern Ireland in 2020. Credit: Pacemaker

Chief Inspector Pennington has also explained that a number of additional safety protocols will be in place to protect motorists and officers during the operation, which runs from 4 December through to 4 January.

She said: “Before and after each use, every handheld breathalyser is sanitised, and officers wearing PPE will attach a new sealed disposable straw before asking the driver to perform the test.

“Once the test is completed, the driver can either take the straw, or leave it on the machine to be disposed of. We will also have facilities available if any drivers present with C19 symptoms, or indeed claim to have symptoms. " “I have no sympathy for any driver we detect who has made the decision to drive after drinking or taking drugs," Chief Inspector Pennington continued.

My sympathy is with those families, friends and communities across Northern Ireland who are dealing with the death or serious injury of a loved one, because someone selfishly thought it acceptable to drive while under the influence.

Chief Inspector Diane Pennington

A total of 54 people have been killed as a result of road traffic collisions in Northern Ireland in 2020 so far.

That is seven more fatalities than on the same date in 2019, and two more than 2018.

Chief Inspector Pennington added: “It’s disappointing that despite our repeated and well publicised warnings, a minority of people continue to disregard the safety of themselves and others by taking the shameful and incredibly dangerous risk of driving after drinking or taking drugs.”

“Our message is very simple. Never EVER drink and drive. Just one drink can impair decision making. Just one drink can cause a collision. Just one drink could kill.”