Cap the drinking
There is absolutely no doubt that drinking and driving is a problem in Barbados. But because we have lagged behind just about every country in the world in dealing firmly and sensibly with the matter, we really have no way of determining the extent of the problem or its cost to our society.
It is not uncommon to watch Barbadians of all ages, but primarily men in their most productive years, spend hours liming and drinking, only to jump into their cars, fancy and otherwise, to speed off to their homes — or perhaps, the next watering hole.
And with the volume of traffic escalating on our roads in the past two decades, the need for full attention from drivers has also increased tremendously. Whether it is simply driving along a major highway, exiting from one of our numerous blind junctions or trying to enter one of our more challenging roundabouts, the reaction time keeps getting shorter and shorter because the traffic gets thicker and thicker.
In the face of this situation we continue to ignore that tremendous hurt that drinking and driving causes. Even in this second half of 2012 we have no legislation or provision for the use of breathalyser testing. What we do have is an antiquated set of rules that are so cumbersome lawmen never use them. As a consequence the innocent suffer and the guilty get away with murder — literally and figuratively.
Perhaps though, the decision of the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago to fire one of her ministers after he was arrested by police for refusing to take a breathalyser test might help to encourage authorities here to act — and to do so with some measure of urgency.
In Barbados, heavy drinking is not the preserve of any class or social group, but we know that given the nature of a society that so believes in the “it is not what you know, but who you know philosophy”, some are more likely to get away with their unsociable and perhaps unlawful acts. The enactment of modern legislation and equipment will help to level the playing field, since the guilty who “know someone” will have less of a chance of making that phone call.
We really cannot understand why after all these years, when there is absolutely no doubt that we have a problem, those with the power to act have done nothing to protect the innocent in this matter. Every person who knows he or she has to drive must never be allowed to forget that when they get behind the wheel drunk — or under the influence of alcohol — they put the lives of countless countrymen and visitors to our shores at risk.
This is also important because there is ample evidence to suggest that our visitors take the lead from us, and while many of them would not dream of drinking and driving in their own countries, they have no difficulty doing it here.
And the irony is that they can do it here with impunity because we have no systems in place to hold them or ourselves accountable for this irresponsible action.
When will we stop talking and act?