This year has already seen many major accidents. On our roadways daily, there are a high number of traffic offences.
The issue of alcohol and the massive damaging effects it is having on individuals and communities has once again been brought to the fore as several drivers have been caught drinking and driving. More unfortunate is that some of these were involved in fatal accidents.
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 greatly increased risk of being involved in car accidents and sustaining highway injuries and/or vehicular deaths.
Every single injury and death caused by drunk driving is fully preventable. Although the proportion of alcohol-related crashes locally may not be as significant as they are in other countries, those that occur are still worrying. 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 is severely lacking; and were the Police more prepared for this battle, then, as the holidays approach, public messages via the media would have been issued to citizens to constantly remind drivers about the impacts of drunk driving and what the law’s position on it is. 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.
With the passage of the drunk-driving law over 10 years ago, implementation of the breathalyser test, and heavier fines for drinking and driving, it was thought that this particular offence would have decreased. These measures would not yield the best results if they are not used in a more holistic plan that aims to make the roads safer. Drivers need constant reminders about the dangers of drunk driving, and the Police must have plans that proactively seek out drunk drivers before they drive off.
Drunk driving aside, World Health Organisation (WHO) data had shown that alcohol kills a whopping three million people worldwide each year — more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined. It was stated that men are particularly at risk.
According to the WHO, alcohol causes more than one in 20 deaths globally each year, including 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.
Owing to poor lifestyle choices such as alcohol abuse, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have resulted in large numbers of our young people dying. Another significant number has also fallen ill and, therefore, cannot contribute to their families or the development of their communities in any way.
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 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 designing the 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 other stakeholders too, such as religious groups, the Private Sector and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), etc.