Drink-driving P-platers on rise

A DISASTER waiting to happen – that’s how police describe the disturbing trend of young alcohol-affected drivers hitting Coffs Coast roads.

In the past two weeks, highway police have charged growing numbers of P-platers with drink driving in the Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Bellingen areas but they say it’s been on the rise in the past year.

“We have no idea why it’s on the increase and we’re frustrated,” said Senior Constable Wally Brooks.

“During the past two weekends in our area we estimate half of the PCA (prescribed concentration of alcohol) offences involved P-platers.

“We assume it’s peer pressure and we’re finding P-platers tend to carry more occupants – whom have also been drinking – than other drivers.

“One driver told us recently ‘I was the soberest of the lot and I just wanted to get them home’.”

Const Brooks said he and his colleagues doubted many parents knew their children were driving while intoxicated and they often didn’t tell their mum and dad they’d wound up in trouble with police.

“Are they aware the next knock on the door could be to tell them their son or daughter has died in a car accident,” he said.

“If you crash your car you could quite easily kill yourself and your occupants.

“Young drivers should remember they are treated the same as adult drivers and if they break the law they could face big penalties including lengthy disqualifications, hefty fines and if it’s serious enough, jail time.”

Const Brooks said police had recently started informing parents of P-platers caught drinking and driving.

“This dreadful behaviour has got to stop,” he said.

“Coffs/Clarence has already recorded 16 fatalities so far this year compared to six for the same time last year.”

Const Brooks has been a highway patrol officer for 12 years and has been to smashes involving P-platers that had been drinking.

“In one incident I can remember the P-plate driver killed the passenger,” he said.

“Losing your life just isn’t worth it, not to mention losing your job or apprenticeship when you lose your licence.

“Also, some employers ask about your criminal history and you can’t go to some countries if you’ve been charged before.”

Const Brooks said limited public transport options in our region meant a driver’s licence was necessary for many people.

But he was heartened by the fact some parents were taking their kids to the Coffs Harbour PCYC’s traffic education program before getting their licence.

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