By Humphrey Carter
THE first phase of the Christmas anti-drink driving campaign into its second week, 6'000 drivers have already been stopped and tested in the Balearics since December 9. With the second phase of the “not a single drop of alcohol at the wheel” crackdown to involve a marked increase in road-side checks when it gets under way towards the end of next week, 196 drivers, 1.5 percent of those stopped, have been caught for drink driving during the first week of the crackdown with maximum fines of 608 euros and three-month driving bans handed out. Central government delegate Ramon Socias, under fire from the Balearic government over the apparent lack of police in the Balearics and his apparent lack of interest, said yesterday that 40 Civil Guard traffic police are involved in the campaign and in areas with a population of over 25'000, Local Police have been giving back-up and assistance. Socias explained yesterday that the spot-checks are being carried out during the day and night “people's reflexes suffer the same during the day as they do at 2am if they have been drinking,” he said, adding that the traffic police are also on the guard because of the large number of Christmas lunches at this time of year. The government delegate was also keen to stress at yesterday's media briefing that the primary aim of the Christmas campaign is to make drivers think twice about taking risks at the wheel. But, he warned that those who do run the risk of heavy fines and tough penalties.
Apart from maximum on the spot fines of 608 euros or a three-month ban, serious offenders will have between four and six points docked from their licence while drivers refusing to take a breath test will also be seriously dealt with.
Socias added that this year's increase in traffic controls with use of speed cameras and close circuit television systems on busy roads in and around Palma does appear to be paying dividend with the number of roads deaths to date five percent lower than last year. But, despite the overall decrease in deaths at the wheel, there has been an alarming 23 percent rise in the number of fatal victims aged under 30 and he went on to proclaimed that the death toll is still far too high and repeated his calls for vehicle passengers, front and rear, to always wear their seat belts and for motorcyclists to always wear a crash helmet. Last year, driving and driving was the cause of 13 percent of road deaths in the Balearics, far inferior to the national average of 36 percent and Socias hopes that, over the course of this year, the percentage has been reduced further.


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