A troubling traffic offence

Every day, the Guyana Police Force continues to release statistics about traffic offences, mainly speeding and driving under the influence.
Alcohol-involved vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of injury, and in many cases death, in Guyana. Drunk driving is one of the most troubling traffic offences. Driving while either intoxicated or drunk is dangerous, and drivers with high blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) are at a greatly increased risk of being involved in vehicular accidents and sustaining highway injuries and/or vehicular deaths.
Every single injury and death caused by drunk driving is fully preventable. Alcohol-related crashes locally are now as significant as they are in other countries.
Unfortunately, in spite of these concerns, alcohol-impaired driving remains a serious national problem that tragically affects many victims and their families.
The approach to combat drunk driving has been severely lacking for years. Now, with the passage of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2022, aimed at toughening existing laws to prevent drunk driving and the carnage on the road, it is hoped that this would be properly enforced. However, from the road carnage we are seeing as a result of drinking and driving, we are convinced that this is not being done. We agree that this is not a police issue only, but full responsibility must be taken by the driver; however, full enforcement will send a pellucid message to drivers.
We agree with Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, when he said during his presentation on the Bill that the nation needs to change its mindset.
As the country continues to battle with the effect of drunk driving, more needs to be done as the holidays approach. Public messages via the media should be issued to citizens, to constantly remind drivers about the impacts of drunk driving, and what is the law’s position on it. Cautioning drivers every time about getting behind the wheel after surpassing the drink limit is necessary, as every year there are scores of young and new drivers who are not familiar with these issues or the reality of the roads. Drunk driving aside, World Health Organization (WHO) data has shown that alcohol kills a whopping three million people worldwide each year — more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined. It has been stated that men are particularly at risk.
According to the WHO, alcohol causes more than one in 20 deaths globally each year, including by drunk driving, alcohol-induced violence and abuse, and a multitude of diseases and disorders. Men account for more than three-quarters of alcohol-related deaths.
Here, in Guyana, there are many social ills affecting citizens, and alcohol abuse is seen as one of the contributing factors.
WHO has, over the years, been urging countries to do more to counter harmful drinking, and to reach a goal of cutting global consumption by 10 per cent between 2010 and 2025. It is also urging countries to further tax alcohol, and ban advertising of such beverages to reduce consumption. However, this is not enough, there is need to push for a change in attitude and lifestyle changes in general, especially among the younger segment of our population.
While the Government must play a crucial role in respect to relevant programmes and policies, and put in place the necessary legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol, this burden must also be shared by all citizens.
It is important that we remind drivers of the provisions of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2022, which creates new criminal offences of motor manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm when driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
A person would be found guilty of motor manslaughter when that person causes the death of another person while driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The penalty for conviction of this offence is not less than 10 years’ imprisonment.
It was hoped that this harsh penalty would be a reality check for those who may want to break the law, but yet the prevention of drunk driving has persistently been defied, despite expenditure of resources and increase in penalties. As was stated by the AG, the nation, more specifically drivers, need to change their mindset.