HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

Drink driving won’t go away.

Despite graphic ads and relentless safety warnings, the message clearly isn’t getting through, if appearances at Masterton District Court are anything to go by.

On Monday 13 drink drivers appeared — four more were in court yesterday — but Wairarapa Road Policing Sergeant Tim Crum says they’re the lucky ones.

“Those who are stopped by police and face court sanctions should consider themselves fortunate.

“They are relatively unscathed by their poor choice to drink and drive.

“Those who are involved in crashes can, and do, cause immeasurable harm to themselves and their families, other innocent road users and their families, and the community in general.”

Judge Barbara Morris was forced to repeat herself on Monday, telling successive offenders with “extremely high” breath alcohol readings that they needed to change their risky behaviour which endangered others.

At least three of the 13 defendants had crashed their vehicles while driving drunk.

A 14th person, aged 27, appeared on a shoplifting charge after he stole a box of bourbon cans from a liquor store on the same day he had been convicted of drink driving.

Five were charged with having excess breath alcohol readings for a third time or more, with one also alleged to have driven under the influence of drugs while having their licences suspended for at least the third time.

Defence arguments included an underage drinker, 17, saying he was the “most sober” of his friends so was driving them home from a party.

Another woman, 31, claimed to have only “had half a bottle of wine” before she crashed into a park vehicle in suburban Martinborough, rolled her car and had to be freed by the fire service.

The judge pointed out to at least four defendants that they were almost four times the legal limit.

The legal limit for drivers aged 20 and over is 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath, while the criminal limit is 400mcg.

A 23-year-old man was found to have a breath alcohol reading of 980mcg after he was pulled over for riding his child’s motorbike on a rural Carterton Rd, even though he was disqualified from driving from a previous offence.

A 56-year-old woman was more than twice the legal limit when she crashed her vehicle, mid-morning, on Akatarawa Rd.

She told police that her last drink had been at 2.30am, while preparing food for her daughter’s wedding.

Judge Morris sentenced eight of the drink drivers, who all pleaded guilty.

Most of the sentences included a fine of more than $600 and an order to complete a period of community work.

All were disqualified from holding a driver’s licence, most for at least six months, and some were ordered to undergo drug and alcohol counselling.

Mr Crum said the harm alcohol did in the community was huge.

“The message is simple — don’t drink and drive.”

But every year thousands of New Zealanders “made poor choices” and decided to drive while under the influence.

“I, like every other police officer, do not want to have to knock on your door or someone else’s door to advise them that a drink driver has killed their loved one.

“One death as a result of drink driving is one too many.”