SPECIAL REPORT Drink-driving dangers hit home

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An Advertiser campaign has pledged to highlight the dangers of drink-driving, teaming up with North Yorkshire Police over the festive season. As the campaign comes to a close, Investigations Reporter RUBY KITCHEN looks back over the past six weeks.

A doctor, a solicitor, a teacher, an insurance broker. A young wannabe pop star, a father dropping off his son’s PE kit, a young man on his way home from the pub.

One drink-driver crashed in a ditch. Another was found in a field. Two were caught when driving with no headlights on.

And a final suspect was arrested when he accepted a lift from a passing policeman after crashing his car.

“The impact of drink-driving on the victims, in the worst case scenario, is devastating,” warns Supt Aubrey Smith, Safer Neighbourhood Commander for the Harrogate district.

“The loss of liberty, of a driving licence, a job, struggling to get ahead at work. But all of that pales into insignificance if someone is killed. They will live with that for the rest of their lives.”

The Advertiser, pledging to name and shame those that have passed through the county’s courts, has had a reporter in court as 12 people were stripped of their licences. More are due to appear in coming days.

The campaign has heard a fireman’s poignant first-hand account, after he was called out to a fatal crash on his very first training shift.

Darren Smith, who just hours before had seen the victims in the pub as he was eating dinner, told how he had to then rush to try and help. Despite his best efforts, and those of his colleagues, the passenger, a young woman, could not be saved.

The campaign has reported from the coroners’ courts after a Harrogate businessman was killed in a head-on crash.

The Porsche driver, described in court as a ‘man on a mission’ as he downed red wine in the pub, was killed minutes later after his car swerved onto the wrong side of the road and smashed into a passing tractor at 80mph.

Coroner Rob Turnbull, issuing a stark warning to drink-drivers, said : “Drinking and driving kills. It may kill you and it may kill other people. That message needs to get out there.”

But despite all efforts to raise awareness, the Harrogate district has seen 21 arrests since the end of November.

“It’s very disappointing that people are still not learning, not listening, to the message that we are sending out,” said Supt Smith.

“It’s small numbers - but when we are actively campaigning it’s still disappointing. People still seem to think they aren’t affected.”

And, pledging to keep up the focus on drink-drivers, Supt Aubrey said: “People need to be aware that alcohol does impact on your driving the following morning.

“Drink-divers seem to think they can save a few quid by driving home instead of getting a taxi. The reality is that it’s going to cost you an awful lot more.

“Dare I say it, there’s a level of arrogance there. People just don’t believe it will happen to them, that luck is on their side. That they will get away with it forever. But they wont.”

Consultant phychiatrist admits drink-driving

A stressed-out consultant psychiatrist who drove to help a friend in need after a relaxing night out with her husband was stopped by police for speeding and found to be over the limit, a court was told last Thursday.

Harrogate magistrates heard how police doing early morning speed checks on the A661 Wetherby Road on December 22 pulled over Pratibha Nirodi’s 4x4 and then found she blew 47 micrograms of alcohol, 12 more than the limit.

When mother of three Nirodi pleaded guilty to drink-driving, her solicitor Stephen Welford said to lose her good character at the age of 46 was a significant punishment in itself.

He said Nirodi, of Castle Street, Spofforth, had been stressed through a combination of circumstances. She had been helping two friends going through difficult divorces, her father-in-law needed respite care and an uncle had died.

Her husband took her to a local hotel for a relaxing meal and they shared a bottle of wine before taking a taxi home. But when she received a call for help Nirodi took a taxi back to the hotel and then got behind the wheel of her Range Rover.

Nirodi was fined £1,250 with £85 costs, a £120 victim surcharge and a one-year driving ban.

Joiner banned from the road after drink-driving

A self-employed joiner who crashed his car in a field after a drinking session has been banned from the roads for more than two years.

Wayne Metcalfe, 31, was arrested on December 20 after passing police community support officers (PCSOs) saw him driving on the wrong side of the road at night - with no lights on.

“They observed the car leave the road, and go into a field,” said prosecutors at Harrogate Magistrates Court last Thursday.

“They called for support from fellow officers who, arresting Metcalfe, found him to be nearly three times the legal limit - he blew 98 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath.”

Metcalfe, of South View, Littlethorpe, admitted consuming seven pints and two shots before getting behind the wheel of his silver Fiesta at around 8.15pm.

“It’s not been the best of years for Mr Metcalfe,” said his defence solicitor. “He’s been off sick from his job as a self-employed joiner with a broken hand. His father passed away from cancer.”

Mr Metcalfe didn’t know why he had decided to drive that night, he added.

“I can’t offer any explanation as to why he chose to drive home,” he said. “Perhaps he did not want to leave his car. That car has now been written off.”

Metcalfe was disqualified from driving for 26 months and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £60.