Battling with drunk driving

The year is only one month old, and, almost every day, the local press is reporting gruesome and horrific accidents caused by drunk driving. Within the past week, more than four deaths have been reported, with the most horrendous being the fisherman whose head was severed after a 21-year-old drunk driver had crashed into him.
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 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 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. 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. To quote the AG: “This can’t be the Government’s job alone, and legislative changes alone can never be able to curb this horrendous, tragic loss of human life in our country. Every member of society, every responsible organisation in this country, must join hands with our Government as we begin to chart a new course of making our roads safe.”
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 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 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.