“Not even one”.
That was the sobering message from local police as they gear up their anti-drink driving operation across County Down.
“It’s simple. Just one drink can kill. That is the key message this winter”, said a police spokesperson.
Specialist officers from Road Policing and the Tactical Support Group handed out advice leaflets to motorists and displayed two of the latest liveried and unmarked vehicles they will be using across Northern Ireland in operations to detect drink drivers.
Head of Operations Branch, Superintendent Mark Purdon, explained: “During the winter drink drive operation last year, we detected 429 people who took the risk of killing or injuring themselves, their family, friends and other innocent road users by deciding to drive after drinking.
“This figure was particularly disappointing. But considering that some of these people were so drunk, they could barely stand up, it just beggars belief that some people still insist on attempting to drive after drinking,” he said.
In addition to running targeted operations to catch drink drivers throughout the day and night, in the weeks leading up to Christmas and into the New Year, Police will again coordinate road safety operations across the border counties with colleagues from An Garda Síochána Traffic Corp.
Superintendent Purdon added: “If you find yourself asking the question, ‘I wonder if I’m ok to drive?’ Or if you find yourself trying to calculate if you are under the drink drive limit, whether that’s after one drink, or the morning after a night out, just don’t take the risk. The consequences could be catastrophic.
“People don’t accidentally have a beer or glass of wine, they make a conscious decision. It only takes one drink to impair your decision making ability. The only right decision is to leave the car or motorbike at home if you’re drinking.
“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?
“I do not want 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.
“Drink and drive and at best, you are likely to be caught, arrested and brought before the courts. You will almost certainly lose your licence for one or more years, will be fined, and will have great difficulty in obtaining car insurance in the future. You also risk losing your job or going to jail.
“The message is simple… it’s never OK to Drive and Drive,” Superintendent Purdon said.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood also supporting the initiative said: “Christmas is a time to get together with family, friends and colleagues.
“It can be tempting to take an unplanned drink, particularly at Christmas parties, and consider driving home. But even small amounts of alcohol impair driving, so thinking that you can have one drink and drive safely isn’t realistic.
“Lives can change forever the moment drivers take a drink and decide to drive home.
“Just one drink will impair your driving. It’s your choice and your responsibility. Leave the car at home and ask someone else to drive or take a taxi. No matter what time of the year it is – never, ever drink and drive.”