Radical Measures Against Drunk Driving Needed


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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5 thoughts on “Radical Measures Against Drunk Driving Needed

  1. Emile you have a point indeed. There are twoaspect to this whole issue – the “police & check” as set out above, and what I call the “cultural” one.

    No one would consider you anything but normal had you consumed more than two beers in an English pub, to call your wife and ask her to come and collect you.

    You would have to be a hell of a lot braver to say to the “manne” at the Klapmuts Hotel, wiping you mouth after the second brandy and coke, that “I must orgaise a lift home” The derision that this would envoke would almost drown out the bar noise.

    And as for the Big Boys … Brandhouse et al, sure they talk the talk, having perused in detail the latest ARA recomendations on health warnings … but truth is we have to SELL our Brands, and alcohol has to look sexy, attractive and the right thing to do.

    We need role models throught the community, The Lucas Radebes, Bryan Habanas and James Smalls of our society.

    Peer pressure and not beer pressure.

    We need to think not to drink (to much).

    We have to continue to strive to make the best wine in the world but asd a form of art and enjoyment, and not a class of anaesthetic.

  2. The rather more invidious issue on drinking and driving is that the perpetrators can range from teenager to octogenarian and this is not a male dominated crime females too are not exempt by any means. Lead by example might be the first of many solutions.

  3. I was the first executive director of MADD. I was in Capetown about 20 years ago to give a talk. I share your thoughts on the licensing requirement, but we need much more than that. Would love to discus the total system needed to bring drunk driving under the best possible control I know the solution and how to get it. In the U.S. the alcohol industry controls the issue and right now the situation is hopeless. Perhaps you can do in SA what I can’t do here. I”m in ‘California. hope to hear from you.
    Sandy Golden

  4. I’m not so sure that such “Big Brother” legislation is practical or desirable – look at where prohibition got the US in days gone by! I also think that there is a definite change in attitude is SA at the moment (certainly in the circles in which I move) and that the “Klapmuts Hotel” scenario mentioned above is no longer as much of an issue as it was in the past.
    Government moves were reported yesterday in the press whereby legislation is proposed to be able to charge “road killers” with murder rather than culpable homicide – seems the first of these has been Jub Jub himself. This is at least something tangible that also seems practical.

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