VIDEO - Tackling drink driving in Harrogate

The youngest person caught drink-driving in the Harrogate district last year was just 16. The oldest was 79.

One was caught after parking in his neighbour’s drive. Another was found in a hedge.

TC Andy Mcleod, of the Harrogate Road Policing Group. (S)

TC Andy Mcleod, of the Harrogate Road Policing Group. (S)

And a third, stopped in her tracks after driving into a lamppost, was nearly four times the legal limit at 10 in the morning.

“There are clearly people who know they have been drinking when they get behind the wheel of a car,” said Supt Aubrey Smith, Harrogate Safer Neighbourhood Commander.

“And there are those who don’t know how much they’ve had to drink.

“But does Harrogate have more drink drivers or are more people caught? I think maybe local people are just more honest in revealing their convictions.”

Police arrested 15 people in Harrogate over Harrogate. (S)

Police arrested 15 people in Harrogate over Harrogate. (S)

The Harrogate district, from Ripon to Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge, Knaresborough and Nidderdale, topped a list last year for the highest number of drink-drive convictions nationwide.

The research, by Moneysupermarket.com, showed that an average of seven in 1,000 people in the area had a conviction.

But, said Supt Aubrey Smith, it isn’t that Harrogate has more drink-drivers - it’s that people in the town may be more honest about revealing it.

“Predominantly it’s people travelling to Harrogate,” he said. “But people are taking a stand against drink driving.

“We are seeing a real shift in attitudes. Members of the public are coming forward to report people and it’s amazing what people’s motives are.

“It’s viewed as far worse than it was 30 or 40 years ago - and rightly so. It does lead to death, serious injury and ultimately heartbreak when someone is killed.”

North Yorkshire Police tackles the issue with regular drink-drive campaigns. The Christmas campaign saw officers carry out 3,412 breath tests across the county.

Fifteen people were arrested in Harrogate. Seven lived locally, one was from North Yorkshire and seven more were from outside of the area. The furthest one was from Kent.

TC Andy Mcleod and Special Constable Louise Ruddick. (S)

TC Andy Mcleod and Special Constable Louise Ruddick. (S)

“There is a limit as to how much people can drink without being affected,” said Supt Smith. “But there are too many rumours, too many old wives’ tales and speculation.

“There’s a culture of pre-loading, drinking before they go out and then taking the car. And there are still people who think they are OK to drive after just two hours sleep.”

Drink driving slows reactions, said Supt Smith. It leads to poor judgement and increased risk taking. Drivers are either over-cautious, constantly breaking, or more relaxed and putting their foot down.

“The risk then is that someone will step in front of you,” said Supt Smith. “In rural areas, people take that risk. But you should always expect the unexpected.

“If somebody is seriously injured or killed, they will likely go to prison. Is it really worth ruining your life or someone else’s? The impact is devastating.”

l A man almost four times the drink drive limit was caught in January after parking his car in his neigbour’s drive rather than his own. The 52-year-old had downed five or six pints of beer in 80 minutes, a court in Harrogate heard, before attempting to drive home. When tested, he blew 126 micrograms - the limit is 35.

l Another man, who drove his car into a hedge at the end of January, was found to more than three times the legal limit. The 56-year-old told a court he had drunk three glasses of wine before the crash, when he tested 106 micrograms of alcohol.

l A young woman caught by police after crashing into a lamppost at 10am on Christmas Eve was found to be four times the legal limit. The 33-year-old was caught after crashing at Pennypot Roundabout.

l Another woman, arrested in Harrogate after a crash with a car, was found to be twice the drink-drive limit at 5.20am on New Year’s Day.

l And a third woman, who blacked out at the wheel of her car after drinks with ex-colleagues, put herself and two others in hospital. The 39-year-old, a court in Harrogate heard, had to be cut free from the wreckage of her car after attempting to drive home from the pub. A blood test later showed she was more than three times the legal limit.

“Everybody gets into the car thinking they are going to get where they are going,” said Traffic Constable Andy Mcleod, of the Harrogate Road Policing Group.

“But you are only as good as your next journey.”

TC Mcleod, with 13 years’ experience, is part of a team whose job it is to go to car crashes in the Harrogate area. He has seen more than his fair share of heartbreak.

“I’ve dealt with numerous collisions involving drink drivers,” he said. “Some where they’ve killed people. Some where they’ve killed themselves.

“Having to knock on the door of their loved ones, and explain to them what’s going on, and then the painful court process, and people getting sent to prison... Why would anybody want that? It’s devastating.”

TC Mcleod’s team, dedicated to keeping the roads safe in the Harrogate district, are often first at the scene at accidents.

He has seen first-hand the destructive impact, crawled into a crashed car to comfort a dying girl, told her parents of their loss. He has prepared coroner’s reports and knocked on families’ doors to deliver that life-changing news.

“You can devastate somebody else’s life,” he said. “And you will devastate yours.”

For a video interview with TC Mcleod, visit www.harrogateadvertiser.co.uk, or follow @NYorksRPG on Twitter for updates from the road policing team.

Age of those arrested in Harrogate in Christmas drink drive campaign

Under 20 Two

21 - 30 Five

31 - 40 Three

41 - 50 One

51 - 60 Two

61 + Two

Peak months in 2012 were June, July, August and September

January 12

February 15

March 12

April 14

May 13

June 17

July 23

August 23

September 17

October 13

November 11

December 15

Harrogate had a high number of arrests for its population in 2012

Harrogate 190 arrests (207 in 2011)

York 294

Scarborough 224

Skipton 66

Northallerton 230 (includes Richmond)

Selby 22

Male versus Female (January 1, 2011 to 2013)

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.