Motorists in Donegal have been warned not to drink and drive over the Christmas season.
At the launch of a major cross-border Anti-Drink Driving Campaign last Friday, a senior garda inspector the goal is to ensure that "anyone drinking and driving will be brought before the courts".
An Garda Sochna and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are working together on the initiative, which will be in operation until January 2011. Drivers can expect a significant increase on the 200 mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints that are already conducted each month in Donegal.
Last Friday's launch was co-ordinated by Inspector Steven Haslett of the PSNI and Inspector Michael Harrison of An Garda Sochna and took place on the N13 near Bridgend on the Derry/Donegal border.
Speaking at the launch Inspector Michael Harrison said: "A minority of drivers continue to selfishly ignore all the advice that has been offered in relation to drink driving. Therefore, I wish to remind all drivers that the Garda will be increasing our focus over the festive period to ensure that anyone drinking and driving will be brought before the courts and if convicted could find themselves serving a prison sentence. Enforcement of the drink-driving legislation remains a major priority as part of our ongoing commitment to reducing road casualties.
Inspector Haslett added: "It's not a question of if you will get caught drink driving but when.
He also reminded drivers that they might not be fit do drive the next morning. "After a heavy drinking session, it could take over 13 hours for alcohol to leave your system - that's lunchtime the next day. People should factor this into any journeys they plan to make over the festive season."
Both Inspectors' comments were echoed by Mayor Cora Harvey, who appealed for all road users to be careful over the festive season. She said, "Christmas is a time of immense happiness as we have the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family. The last thing we want is the tragedy of another road fatality, so I would appeal to all road users over the festive season to enjoy themselves but think road safety and never ever drink and drive."
The campaign is backed by the Donegal Road Safety Working Group as part of their ongoing road safety awareness programme. Eamonn Brown said, "If you're going out this Christmas with friends, make the most of the festive season, but don't chance drinking and driving. Leave your car at home and don't risk your life and the lives of others".
As there will be an increase in the number of road users over the festive period the Donegal Road Safety Working Group has also issued the following advice to road users.
Drive at a safe speed appropriate to the changeable wintry conditions.
Do not drink and drive and don't let others drink and drive. Use an alternative form of transport or appoint a designated driver
Ensure that all passengers - front and rear - are wearing a seatbelt.
Drive with dipped headlights even during day light hours.
When it is safe to do so always pull in to the road side to use a mobile phone.
Make sure your vehicle is in good working order, i.e. your lights and brakes are in good working order and your tyres are the proper tread depth (1.6 mm).
Pre-plan your journey home and take frequent breaks to avoid driving when tired.
Wear bright clothing or reflective material such as a high visibility vest / Sam Brown belt to be safe and be seen by drivers.
Remember drunken pedestrians are also a danger to themselves. If necessary make arrangements to get home safely if you are planning to walk home after a trip to the pub.
PULL QUOTE: ‘It's not a question of if you will get caught drink driving but when'