Court time set aside ready to deal with those prepared to drink and drive

Police will be stepping up patrols and roadside checks for the Christmas drink-driving campaign. Pic

Police will be stepping up patrols and roadside checks for the Christmas drink-driving campaign. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION - Credit: PA

Christmas will never be the same for the family of a 22-year-old woman whose life was stolen by a drink-driver in Suffolk last year.

Lauren Danks with her mum Claire, father Robert, and brothers Kieran, Bobby and Jayden

Lauren Danks with her mum Claire, father Robert, and brothers Kieran, Bobby and Jayden - Credit: Archant

Their stark message to anyone thinking of getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol comes as police launch an annual campaign to stop drink-driving once and for all.

Lauren Danks was killed when speeding drink-driver Nelson Curtis collided with her car on the A11 at Barton Mills on November 11, 2016.

The 64-year-old Lakenheath electrician, who drove his Jaguar at 124mph before colliding with the back of the beauty therapist’s car, had two previous convictions for dangerous and drink-driving.

His seven-year jail sentence offered no compensation to Lauren’s family, who called for a zero-tolerance approach to people, like their daughter’s killer, with no regard for the safety of others.

Lauren Danks

Lauren Danks - Credit: Archant

Her parents, Robert and Claire, were joined in backing the annual Christmas drink-driving campaign by Suffolk and Norfolk’s head of roads policing and crime commissioners for both counties, where specific time slots have been reserved in courts to deal with those caught drink or drug driving – meaning offenders could lose their licences within 24 hours of being caught.

Drink-drivers face losing their licences and livelihoods for jeopardising their own and others people’s safety this Christmas.

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That’s the frank message from police launching an annual campaign to rid the roads of drivers willing to risk everything by getting behind the wheel while under the influence.

The month-long operation will see extra police patrols and roadside checks in Suffolk and Norfolk.

Any driver involved in a collision, stopped due to their manner of driving, or pulled over for a vehicle defect, will be breathalysed.

Specific time slots have been reserved in court to deal with those caught drink or drug-driving – meaning offenders could lose their licence and be fined within 24 hours.

During last year’s campaign, almost 10% (224) of 2,649 tested drivers gave positive readings in both counties.

The figures have been put into starker context by the parents of beauty therapist Lauren Danks, who had recently received a promotion at Center Parcs, Elveden, when her Citroën was hit from behind at 104mph by drink-driver Nelson Curtis, who then failed to stop after the collision, driving almost two miles with only three wheels on his car.

Lauren left behind parents Robert and Claire, and three little brothers, Kieran, Bobby and Jayden, now 15, 11 and eight.

Mr and Mrs Danks, of Soham, Cambridgeshire, said the seven-year jail term Curtis received was no match for the lifetime of pain their family is now forced to endure.

“No one understands how it feels until it happens to them,” they told this paper.

“He [Curtis] will more likely serve three-and-a-half of the seven years, which is nothing at all, but people are lobbying for life sentences and, hopefully, that will make others take notice.

“To think he had done it twice before and it had no impact on him doing it again. Meanwhile, the effect it had on us continues. He took Lauren’s life away, but he’ll still get to wake up in his own bed.

“The pain never goes away. Last Christmas was just a blur – we were in shock. This Christmas, we are even more painfully aware. Life is a struggle.

“Lauren was an absolutely amazing person. She was a daughter and a best friend. We were proud of the person she had become. If she was still here, she’d be excited to be decorating the house for Christmas. She loved this time of year. As soon as it hit Halloween, it was the best time of year for her, because she had that, bonfire night and Christmas to look forward to.”

Mr and Mrs Danks said publicans and peers should not hesitate in reporting drink-drivers to police, and that they should be culpable for remaining silent.

Shock campaign advertising, they said, may deter some from drinking and driving, but repeat offenders deserve appropriate punishment in their opinion.

“People need to know it’s not OK,” they said.

Chief Inspector Kris Barnard, head of the joint roads policing and firearms operations unit, said: “Anyone caught faces a minimum 12-18 month ban. However, deciding to drink and drive could cost you more than just your licence.

“Think seriously about how having no licence could affect your life. Would you lose your job? How would you get the kids to school? How are you going to see family or friends this year?

“Remember, it is your decision whether you drink and drive. You are responsible. You must face the consequences, which could include a serious collision, where you or someone else is injured or killed. Drink driving is just not worth the risk.”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “Let’s all hope that, this year, those who have chosen to ignore this message in the past take heed.

“I know the vast majority of drivers are responsible but, sadly, there are way too many that, despite the obvious dangers, are still taking to the road under the influence of drink or drugs.

Roads policing officers will be using social media to share messages and provide updates on campaign results using @NSRoadsPolicing and via constabulary Facebook pages.

The campaign starts on Friday and runs until January 1, with officers carrying out roadside checks day and night – including early morning checks – as well as intelligence-led enforcement.

People are also encouraged to report concerns relating to drink or drug-driving, anonymously, to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.