353 bloody idiots

SKYROCKETING drink-driving figures have prompted a local magistrate to speak out about those who are putting us all at risk.

Magistrate Graeme Tatnell said the high number of drink-drivers facing the court every fortnight had become depressing.

His comments were supported by figures obtained by the Fraser Coast Chronicle, which showed drink-driving arrests for 2009 had already exceeded the total number of drivers caught in the region in the whole of 2008.

With some of the busiest months still to come the statistics have become an embarrassment to the region.

More than 350 Fraser Coast motorists have been caught drunk behind the wheel of a car this year.

Hervey Bay Magistrate Graeme Tatnell has again called for a change in the way we are educating people about drink-driving.

Mr Tatnell says instead of telling people one or two in an hour is safe,we should be saying if you drink any alcohol don't drive.

Sick of seeing a never-ending parade of drink-drivers come before him, Mr Tatnell sees many cases of low-range drink-driving offences between .05and .07 in which the driver has misjudged their alcohol concentration.

“The drink-driving guides that are stuck up in hotels and clubs should be replaced because it's impossible to estimate your alcohol concentration due to the many factors that have to be taken into account,” he said.

“When it comes to high-range offences, where the driver blows over .15 percent, it's commonly accepted that anyone with a reading over .15 is really not in a position to make sensible decisions.”

According to Queensland Police Service figures, 220 people were charged with drink-driving in Hervey Bay and 133 were charged in Maryborough between January 1 and October 11 this year.

Last year the figures were 216 and 128 respectively - a total of 344 for the entire year.

Maryborough Traffic Branch Sergeant Tony McCarthy said police had been cracking down on drink-drivers in an effort to reduce the road toll.

“Unfortunately the education hasn't gotten through to people,” he said.

“There are too many drink-drivers. One drink-driver is too many.”

The increased police focus on drink-drivers has resulted in slightly fewer road crashes this year but has seen more people fronting court charged with driving under the influence.

Every second Wednesday dozens of people appear in the Hervey Bay Magistrates Court for traffic offences and a large number of those face drink-driving charges.

Last week about a dozen people were convicted of drink-driving.

“It's completely unnecessary,” Mr Tatnell said.

“Hervey Bay has got the services of two dial-a-drivers, a limousine service and taxis.

“There should be no excuse.

“Every second Wednesday, for me, is depressing.”

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