Newcastle United stars back World Cup safety drive

Road Safety GB North East World cup drink drive campaignFootball stars from Newcastle United, Sunderland and Middlesbrough have backed Road Safety GB North East’s World Cup anti-drink driving campaign.

New figures claim 49 people have died and almost 2,000 have been injured on the North East’s roads in booze related crashes in the last five years.

And with matches in the tournament in Brazil continuing into the early hours of the morning, safety advocates fear a rise in people getting behind the wheel both after leaving the pub, and the next morning.

“It’s imperative people not only leave their car keys at home, but also take into account early morning journeys,” said Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson.

“You can still enjoy yourself, especially if England are doing well. But while enjoying the football, remember, nothing is more important than a human life.”

In a rare show of Tyne-Wear solidarity, Sunderland captain John O’Shea agreed.

“The World Cup is a huge event that so many people are looking forward to this summer,” he said.

“People will be going out to cheer on their country and should remember if they are going to the pub that there is no excuse for drinking and driving.”

Statistics show that County Durham recorded the highest number of drink driving fatalities and injuries – accounting for more than a quarter of the region’s total – followed by Northumberland, Sunderland, Newcastle and then Gateshead.

Across the North East, since 2009, motorists aged between 17 and 34 accounted for 65% of all drink drivers, while 82% of those found to be over the limit were men.

“I think we are all excited about the start of the World Cup and the party atmosphere that it brings, but we just want to remind people about the potential consequences as well,” said Paul Watson, chairman of Road Safety GB North East and a road safety officer in Durham and Hartlepool.

“It’s normal for people to celebrate and have a few drinks and we don’t want to stop that. However, they need to leave their car keys at home and either walk or take public transport.”

Former Premier League referee Jeff Winter, from Stockton, said drinking and driving is simply not worth taking the risk.

“Drinking and driving isn’t a winning formula,” he said. “Memories of the World Cup should be all about the magic football and results – they should not be marred with regrets about a decision to drive home from the pub.

“Think about the consequences.”