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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?

5 Responses to Cap the drinking

  1. Garcia Jemmott August 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

    If there is a problem with drinking and driving, why don’t the Police on nights where the drinking and driving is thought to be highest set up checkpoints, and also what is the penalty for being caught drinkng and driving or driving under the influence (DUI)/ driving while intoxicated (DWI).

  2. rubes September 2, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    i spend about two months in barbados each yr, each and every time i’m here i see both locals and especially tourists getting into cars drunk and driving on roads they are not familar with, this is suicide and murder combined.bajans put a stop to it

  3. Mac September 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    @Garcia. That’s exactly the point, there is no penalty because there is no breathalyser. The most you can get arrested for is driving with out due care & attention, if they think you look drunk!

    The problem is with no breathalyser’s most people being on a night out drive drunk. The politicians refuse to make the law (currently they sit on a shelf somewhere) for what reason? The transport Minister was due to make them law this July, but changed his mind. Why?

    Beer & rum are huge sellers here. With company owners having friends in high places.

    The law will be changed when the politicians decide to consider the people before themselves.

  4. Stanpipe Filosofer September 11, 2012 at 1:50 am

    The law will have a hard time passing, as even the politicians indulge in heavy drinking themselves, and its a part of the social fabric to offer close friends a drink, its akin to creating a guillotine and end up losing ones head in the process, plainly put they themselves could become casualties of DWI laws they may help to pass.

  5. Realtor November 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    This article would be useful if it included actual figures – the yearly number of accidents, injuries and deaths caused directly by drink driving…


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