Like most South Africans, I have lost friends and other acquaintances in the massacre arena that would be this country’s road system. Over 14,000 thousand people are dying on our roads each year, a fact highlighted by some well-publicised cases over the past weeks. These include singer Jub Jub who ploughed into a group of schoolchildren, an illegal teenage driver who killed a motorcyclist in the Cape Town city centre and five people who died in a Citi Golf when someone jumped a red light in Modderdam Road.
And we still have to endure the notoriously carnage-filled Easter week-end.
So what’s this got to do with booze? Well, pretty much the death of 7,000 people. Statistics would have it that half of the country’s road fatalities are alcohol-related. And now we are just talking fatalities ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ just think of the physical and psychological damage caused by accidents.
The road authorities are fighting a losing battle against drunken driving. Organisations like the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) and companies such as SAB and Brandhouse are trying their level best to change the South African mindset with advertising campaigns warning us against the dangers of drinking and driving. Yet we continue to get behind the wheel, pissed to the gills, roaring off into the night.
Road-blocks trap hundreds of drunk drivers each week, most of whom are thoroughly aware of the consequences of their actions. But we still take the risk. We are too stupid to get the message or too backward to embrace the values that a civilised society trying to save the lives of its citizens demands of us.
That’s why I will continue to lose friends and acquaintances on these roads and why I will continue to take my life into my own hands when I get behind the wheel.
So is there a solution to this problem?
Yes, but this would entail using extreme measures. And should extreme measures not be used in extreme situations?
That’s why South Africa should implement a system whereby anybody wishing to drink should supply a licence to do so. You want to buy a whisky at a pub or six beers at the bottle store? Your bar-coded licence is swiped and your drinking history fed into a central computer system. Any information listing you as a problem drinker is presented to the seller of the liquor, who in turn has a set of guidelines the relevant organisation has to adhere to.
If the buyer has been trapped for drinking and driving, he or she may not purchase liquor for a year. That old lady buying a bottle of gin at 10:00 every morning will have her licence swiped and is to be alerted to the fact that she is becoming a problem drinker. If she doesn’t slow down, the computer holding all her alcohol-related information will alert the authorities, who will send around a social worker to deal with her problems.
That little punk who has just ordered a set of tequila shooters will hand over his drinking license for scanning. Whoops ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ said brat was involved in a date rape incident, and is thus not allowed to drink for six months.
And so it goes, you can think of your own examples.
Sure, the liquor companies are not going to like this. Many of them see their sole goal as ensuring their product is as easily available to everyone as it should be. (Hey – you companies promoting booze at car washes in the townships on Sunday mornings, it’s you I’m talking about.)
But if South Africa wants to save itself from the savagery caused by excessive drinking, we have to embrace an iron curtain. It may not be comfortable or pleasant, but it is going to protect us in the long run. After all, it is a matter of life and death.
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