THE Northern Rivers has secured itself an unenviable record, with one of the highest drink-driving rates in regional NSW.
But the region's high position on the drink-driving list is not surprising, considering the lack of public transport options and the transient tourist population that has historically contributed to drink-driving numbers.
In the 18 months to May 31 last year, the Richmond Local Area Command had the fourth highest number of drink-driving charges in the State at 318.
The Coffs-Clarence command came in a close fifth with 314 drink-driving charges.
Areas surrounding Newcastle took the worst three spots.
The statistics were the most recent figures available through a Freedom of Information request from NSW Police.
Looking over his long career as a traffic cop with the NSW Police Force, Northern Region traffic co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Bill Darnell conceded the region, particularly the Tweed-Byron and Richmond commands, had always featured high in the drink-driving ranks.
"In the northern part of the State it's all-year-round tourist inclined ... but it's difficult to educate against taking that risk (of drink-driving) when we have such a transient tourist population," he said.
"Also, we don't have the (trans- port) resources that our metropolitan friends have and our licensed premises are spread further afield.
"In the 11 years I have worked in this area, it has consistently rated in the top five."
In light of the recent holiday road toll, which was seven for the Northern Region - more than
double the same time last year - Snr Sgt Darnell said it was frustrating to see mistakes being repeated.
"The analogy I like to use is the bullets are alcohol, fatigue, speed and restraints," he said.
"The car is the gun. It's your decision if you load that gun."
Sgt Snr Darnell urged pub-goers to use services such as the Lismore Late-Nighter and the courtesy buses that some venues such as The Channon Tavern provide.
"It helps (our patrons) so they don't drink-drive, obviously, but a lot of people say if it was not for the courtesy bus, they would not have gone out," Channon Tavern licensee Natalie Quinn said.
Drink driving Charges in NSW Jan 2010 - May 2011:
- Lake Macquarie LAC - 454
- Newcastle City LAC - 400
- Tuggerah Lakes LAC - 379
- Richmond LAC - 318
- Coffs/Clarence LAC - 314
- Northern Beaches LAC - 301
- Lake Illawarra LAC - 300
- Tweed/Byron LAC - 297
- Far South Coast - 292
- Brisbane Waters and Central Hunter - 275
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