Busy night for police road patrols

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 March 2010

IT was the Friday night before Christmas, and it promised to be hectic.

Party time had arrived for the people of Ipswich, and many were celebrating finishing work for the festive period.

IT was the Friday night before Christmas, and it promised to be hectic.

Party time had arrived for the people of Ipswich, and many were celebrating finishing work for the festive period.

By late afternoon the bubbly was flowing inside cosy pubs and hotels, and outside car parks were packed, with vehicles cramming onto grass verges when spaces ran out.

"I can tell you now, these drivers won't all be walking home. There will be people who are drunk who will drive away from here tonight," said Sergeant Colin Teager ruefully reflecting on past experience.

All too often he's had the onerous task of comforting grieving relatives after their loved ones were killed by the actions of a drink driver.

As he cruised round the car park of the Thrasher pub at Nacton last night, a few faces turned to the window to spot the highly visible traffic car, and consider its implications. Some had been in the pubs since lunchtime.

But for every one who was deterred from venturing behind the wheel after a few too many lagers, there were others who, even after seeing the police out to catch them, would not stop to realise the danger they posed to themselves and others.

Sgt Teager said: "A lot of people will see us, and the word will spread. The idea is to get the message across that drink driving is not acceptable.

But he added: "We had 11 drink drivers across Suffolk on Thursday night, so it's obvious the message is still not getting across to some people.

"I don't want to be a killjoy – I don't have a problem with people having a drink. But if they have a drink and then get behind the wheel then I have a problem with that.

"I don't want to see anybody killed or injured over the Christmas period. I've seen tragedies as a result of drink driving, time after time after time. I've had to sit with the victim's relatives and try to help them understand what has happened to their loved one."

The fact that the shift started off so busy, was no surprise to him.

At 4pm, he had briefed his small team of three – two more were off sick, and two had been drafted in to help with public order offences in Ipswich town centre.

He had warned them to look out for four cars, which had been reported to have been driven by drink drivers, according to calls from informants.

But as he left Martlesham police headquarters to start his own rounds, Sgt Teager admitted he was 'very concerned' at the staffing levels. He had planned to use an unmarked car to catch drink drivers unawares, but had to reorganise that plan because of the staffing shortage.

Instead, Sgt Teager scattered his troop to cover the outskirts of East and West Ipswich, as drivers headed into and out of town.

He started out in the cold and the rain, in the Main Road at Kesgrave, and swiftly set about stopping and checking drivers to see if he could detect any alcohol on their breath.

He worked in partnership with Pc Chris Cubitt and Pc Jeff Cribb, and soon they were pulling over four or five cars at a time, telling the drivers it was a spot check for the force's drink driving campaign, and asking if they had drunk anything that day.

In putting their own lives at risk, traffic police are trying to make the roads safer for everyone else.

In total, the team stop-checked about 70 drivers last night and into the early hours of this morning. Only one driver registered any score on the breathalyser – which proved too low to prosecute.

It hadn't been the busiest night of the year after all, and there were no tallies of criminals caught red-handed, to report.

But we may never know how effective the police's prevention tactics were, and just how many drunks decided not to climb behind the wheel last night.

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