Croatia police urge caution ahead of St Martin wine spree

ZAGREB Thu Nov 8, 2012 9:22am EST

ZAGREB Nov 8 (Reuters) - Croatian police urged drivers on Thursday to stay away from their vehicles over the weekend during celebrations for St Martin's day when many people indulge in heavy drinking.

St Martin's day, or Martinje in Croatian, dates back to mediaeval times and is widely celebrated in the north on Nov. 11 with raucous ceremonies to "christen the new wine".

This usually results in a spike in road accidents and fatalities despite an increased police presence and the introduction of stricter controls.

"Drivers who drove under the influence have caused 4,170 accidents in the first 10 months (of the year), which claimed 93 lives," police road safety official Josip Mataija said during a presentation of the "Don't drive when you drink" campaign.

The campaign will last from Friday to Monday morning and will include a considerably higher number of checkpoints along the roads where accidents usually happen.

"If you have been drinking, park your vehicle and take a taxi, or have someone sober drive you back home," a police leaflet said.

Croatia, which is scheduled to join the European Union next July, has a 0.05 percent blood alcohol legal limit for drivers. (Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic, editing by Paul Casciato)

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