Our drink-driving shame

THE disgraceful drink-driving record of the Tweed/Byron region has reached a frightening new low, with figures revealing 804 drivers were caught over the limit in the first eight months of this year.

The Tweed/Byron Local Area Command has received the dishonourable title of having the highest number of drink-drivers in the state for seven out of the past eight years.

Acting Highway Patrol boss Senior Constable Justin Lavin said the region was sadly on track to again having the state's most drink-drivers.

For the full 12 months of last year, drink-driving offences in the Tweed/Byron command had reached just over 1000, but with more than three months left in the year, police say they will easily smash last year's detection figures.

"We caught three drink-drivers on the weekend, one of which was high-range at 0.15," Snr Const Lavin said.

"We are on target at this stage to have the most in the state again." Snr Const Lavin said police were gearing up for the school holidays and the warmer months in which the number of drink-drivers were predicted to soar.

"We are coming into the school holidays and the summer months and we will have a number of operations running during this time. I'd say it (the number of offenders) is going to skyrocket again soon."

Max Kirkham, co-ordinator of the local Traffic Offenders Program, has come to expect large numbers of drink-driving offenders on the Tweed and knows all too well it is an escalating problem.

Mr Kirkham, who puts drink-drivers through a court-ordered six-week course before they are able to regain their licences, says there is never any shortage of people on the Tweed to take on the program.

"We have a new course starting tonight," Mr Kirkham said yesterday.

"And we have 18 new people and seven from the previous course that still have one more session to complete. But next week we may have a couple more and the week after that a few more again, so it does%vary. But we have had well over 40 participants, which tends to happen just after Christmas time."

Mr Kirkham said offenders from Tweed, Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and Byron Bay regularly attended the program, which costs $100 and is only available to those convicted of driving offences.

The Traffic Offenders Program runs out of the Tweed Heads PCYC on Wednesday nights and includes a variety of speakers who discuss topics including road and vehicles, police and legal issues, dangerous driving behaviours, rescue, injuries and drugs and%alcohol. "They have another program across the border in%Tugun and they get more%people than we do," he said.

"That is because the Gold Coast has the highest number of drink-drivers in Queensland, just like the Tweed/Byron area has the highest number of drink-drivers in NSW."

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