Drink-drivers are to be the target of a hard-hitting Harrogate Advertiser campaign to make our streets safer in the run up to Christmas.
Dozens of people are caught drink and drug driving in the area every December, risking their lives and others’ for the sake of saving a £10 taxi fare.
Now, the Advertiser has teamed up with North Yorkshire Police in a concentrated campaign to hammer home this one vital message – don’t drink and drive.
“It’s not about getting caught, it’s about what could happen,” said Supt Aubrey Smith, Safer Neighbourhood Commander for Harrogate.
“The impact of drink-driving is always far reaching. You can lose your job, your mortgage, your family.
“In the worst case scenario it could cause death or serious injury. As a consequence, you will go to jail.
“The impact, on victims, on their families, is massive.”
Every year in the Harrogate district, hundreds of people are caught drinking and driving. The youngest person caught last year was aged just 16, the oldest was 79.
This figure steps up every December, as people take more risks. Driving home from the pub or after the Christmas party, or to work early the next morning.
“This campaign is about safety - about not putting yourself, or others, at risk,” said Supt Smith. “For the sake of a £10 taxi fare, it’s just not worth it. It isn’t worth that risk.”
North Yorkshire Police patrols have been stepped up in the run up to Christmas, with officers securing fast-tracked court dates for those caught over the limit.
Every week through December, the Advertiser is to name and shame those that have been caught and convicted.
And within just four hours of launching the force’s Christmas Safety Campaign on December 1, the first driver had been caught in Harrogate.
A 54-year-old man was arrested in Killinghall in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Patrolling police, spotting him speeding, pulled over his Citroen van and breathalysed him around 4am.
The 54-year-old, from Boroughbridge, has been fast-tracked to Harrogate Magistrates’ Court where he will appear on December 19, charged with drink driving.
Another man, from Ripon, was arrested in Harrogate in the early hours of Monday.
The 22-year-old, pulled over by police on St Andrew’s Walk after officers noticed a headlight which was out, was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving at around 5am.
And a young Harrogate woman, arrested after “driving erratically” through the town centre late on Tuesday night, is due before magistrates in Harrogate next week.
The 22-year-old was arrested on Oxford Street at 11.35pm after a member of the public called it in and was charged with driving while over the legal limit.
Policeman tells of horror of telling relatives their loved one is not coming home
“Drink-driving costs lives, it’s as simple as that.”
Temp Insp Paul Cording, of North Yorkshire Police, sees first hand the effects of drink and drug driving.
His team, the Operational Roads Policing Group (RPG), are often first on the scene of a devastating crash. It is their job to deal with the aftermath.
“There are some people who still think it’s acceptable to drink and drive,” he said. “But we are left to pick up the pieces.
“The worst bit is having to knock on someone’s door to say their loved one is seriously injured. Or worse, that they’re not coming home. No amount of training can prepare you for that.”
Insp Cording’s team patrol the roads day and night in the run-up to Christmas.
Last year, they breathalysed 3,412 people.
“This campaign is about getting people home safely,” said Insp Cording. “We need to refocus people’s way of thinking, particularly around Christmas.
“We’d like to see nobody drink-driving. Get a designated driver. Get a taxi.
“We want everybody to enjoy the festive period. We don’t want them to become a statistic.”
Fifteen people were arrested for drink-driving in the Harrogate district in December last year. Over the course of the year, that figure was 185.
A higher percentage of the population in Harrogate was arrested for drink-driving in 2012 than in any other town or city in the county.
But it’s almost impossible to generalise. The youngest person caught drink-driving in Harrogate was just 16. The oldest was 79.
Some were driving home from a country pub. Others, from a Christmas party.
Some were on their way to work the morning after the night before. And one was even on the school run.
“You can’t categorise those people who drink and drive. It could be anyone, of any age, of any sex. And alcohol affects different people in different ways.
“I don’t think many people go out thinking they will drink and drive.
“But once they’ve had a drink, their perceptions change. They think it’s acceptable. But their driving risks lives.”
Follow Insp Cording’s team on Twitter for live updates through the Christmas campaign on @NYorksRPG.
Drink-Drivers in Harrogate in 2012
Age of those arrested in December last year
Under 20 : Two
21 - 30: Five
31 - 40: Three
41 - 50: One
51 - 60: Two
61 +: Two
Month by month
April : 14
Harrogate: 190 (207 in 2011)
Northallerton: 230 (includes Richmond)
77 women arrested - the youngest was 17 and the oldest was 78
304 men - the youngest was 16 and the oldest was 79
Men arrested were mainly aged 19 - 30
There was no age pattern for women.
Drink driving - The Facts
In the UK, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.
In most other European countries, the limit is considerably less.
If convicted for drink or drug driving you will lose your licence for at least a year.
You will have a criminal record, and could go to prison for up to six months.
You could be faced with a fine of up to £5,000, insurance rates will skyrocket, and you could have trouble hiring a car for up to 10 years later.
And you could lose your job – around 15 per cent of those who are convicted for drink or drug driving do.
Despite the stigma of drink-driving, hundreds of people are still getting behind the wheel in the Harrogate district every year, having had a drink.
And it’s not just at Christmas-time, as these cases heard at Harrogate Magistrates Court demonstrate:
l A Knaresborough man ended up in hospital after mounting the kerb and crashing into a parked BMW.
The 26-year-old, who had been ‘drinking with friends and feeling tired’ as he drove home, was banned from the roads for a year and fined £380.
l A plasterer from Harrogate, seen singing as he picked up fast food in the town centre in early October, then drove off in the takeaway’s delivery van.
The 26-year-old drove through a red light before abandoning the van in Ripon Road and was caught trying to climb over a wall. He tested well over twice the legal limit and was banned from driving for three years.
l A man found to be nearly three times the legal limit was stopped by police in Harrogate as he attempted to get into his car.
The 28-year-old, arrested as he fumbled with his car keys on Fairfax Avenue, later pleaded guilty to being in charge of a vehicle while over the limit and was banned from the roads for four months.
l A father from Harrogate lost his job as a driver after he was caught drink driving in the town in the early hours.
The 31-year-old was stopped by police in September who believed he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but when officers approached they could smell drink - he was found to be over twice the legal limit.
l A teenager arrested after his car left the A59 Harrogate to York road admitting drinking more than a bottle of cider before getting behind the wheel. The 18-year-old was arrested in September after asking police officers to help him push the vehicle back onto the road. A breath test showed he was 24 micrograms above the limit of 35 - he received a heavy fine and a 14-month driving ban.
l A Knaresborough man was arrested after falling asleep at the wheel of his car while it was stopped at traffic lights. The 43-year-old admitted driving while more than twice the legal limit and was disqualified for 20 months.
l A homeless man from Knaresborough was found to be nearly three times the legal limit after being caught driving “erratically” around the Castle Yard car park.
The 41-year-old was banned from driving for two years after tests showed a breath alcohol level of 99 micrograms compared with the limit of 35.
l A father-of-three, found to be almost three times the legal limit, was caught after crashing his car in May. The 60-year-old crashed in the car park of his doctor’s surgery while collecting medication. He was handed a 26-month driving ban.
l A 20-year-old was told he would have to resit his driving test after he crashed his powerful BMW, a birthday gift and his ‘pride and joy’, into a tree on Arthurs Avenue earlier this year. The Harrogate man, whose passenger needed hospital treatment after the crash, was found to be twice the drink-drive limit after a night out on the town with friends. He was later handed a 22 month ban.
l A Harrogate teacher pleaded guilty to drink driving in May after being pulled over by police near Ripley.
He was found to be more than three times over the legal limit, after a tip-off to police. He later received a two-year driving ban.
l A company manager was banned from driving after trying to move his car to a longer car parking space - at 3am.
The 22-year-old was arrested after pulling out in front of a police car and was found to be more than twice the legal limit.
l A builder who fled when police tried to breathalyse him was later found by a tracker dog hiding in bushes.
The 29-year-old, stopped at the wheel of a van, had been followed by police whose dogs traced him to some bushes in Duchy Road. Tests later found he was almost twice the limit. He was handed an 18-month ban.
l A 40-year-old Ripon woman, stopped by police after driving her car very slowly down the middle of the road at 8.30am, was later found to be nearly three times the legal limit in March.
Have you been affected by drink driving? Contact the Harrogate Advertiser’s Investigations Reporter, Ruby Kitchen on 01423 564321 or email Ruby.Kitchen@jpress.co.uk.