A SHOCKING 240 people living in Banbridge district have been convicted of drinking or taking drugs and then getting behind the wheel in the last four years.
And the number of people convicted at Banbridge Magistrates’ Court since 2008 has risen by more than half - with 71 people found to have been driving or in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink or drugs in 2010 compared to 46 people two years previously.
Despite the numerous well-publicised safer driving campaigns in recent years, it seems the message is still not getting through to people, according to the latest figures which can be revealed by the Leader following a Freedom of Information Request.
A staggering £61,930 was paid in fines by drivers from Banbridge who were either drunk or high on the roads between 2007 and 2010. Four people from Banbridge district have been convicted at the Crown Court of driving while over the limit, paying more than £1,000 in fines.
Most people convicted of charges relating to drink or drug driving face driving bans, hefty fines and may have to sit an extended driving test.
Banbridge sergeant Sean Hamill said it is astonishing that people are still not taking the message seriously. “No one can say they have not been warned repeatedly in the past, yet some motorists still do not appear to have got the message,” he said.
And he added that younger drivers, despite growing up with high-profile media campaigns warning of the dangers associated with driving under the influence of drink or drugs, are becoming more prevalent when it comes to this type of crime.
“In the past it was often said that older drivers were likely to be among the main offenders, but we have noticed that quite of a few of those we have arrested recently have been younger drivers.
“These drivers, largely young men, are in an age group that has grown up with the drink-drive message so they can have no excuse whatsoever.”
Sergeant Hamill also warned that anyone who takes a chance on the roads after drinking alcohol or taking drugs will face the full force of the law.
“Another message from the figures is that people who take a chance are getting caught,” he said. “We have a widespread presence on roads in the area, and that includes rural roads as well as those in towns. With an increased number of checkpoints, drinking drivers are even more likely than ever to get caught.”
Sergeant Hamill warned that the long-term consequences of being convicted with these offences mean the defendant’s future could be badly affected as well as the risk of killing or injuring someone on the roads.
“Those we arrest and charge will go before the courts and they will lose their licences, in addition to any monetary penalty that is imposed and the increased insurance premiums they will face when they get their licence restored,” he said.
“That could affect their livelihoods and those of their families, but the real risk of drinking and driving is that it could result in the serious injury or death of the drinking driver, or some innocent road user.”