WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Outraged About Drunk Driving

Alcohol KillsIn this society (like others) we get outraged over a lot of things. The decision earlier this year by the honourable High Court judge concerning last year's elections had many in a rage.

In fact, some rather “notable” attorneys at law had gone as far to call the judge illogical. (I wonder what these lawyers tell their children to do if they do not like the umpires’ decision.)

Some were also outraged by the fact that the Electoral Commission hearings were not being aired live in the public media. They are asking if other public inquiries were played live in the public media, what is so different about this one?

Then there are those who are outraged about the state of public health care in this country. And although that is a topic that often tweaks my passion, today my outrage is more specific. However, my outrage cannot be totally divorced from a comprehensive health policy that I have been calling for. Specifically, I am talking about the issue of drunk driving.

Like just about every other health category in Antigua & Barbuda, there are no reliable statistics on the incidence and consequences of drunk driving in this country, but it does not take a teacher to come from France to tell us it is a serious problem. And for those who think that it is not such a big deal, I prefer to still have it tackled now (if not yesterday).


The problem is not only one of health, but also of law enforcement. So I must ask if the authorities are serious about keeping drunk drivers off our roads. But before we start to rag the police, have we even legally defined what drunk driving is?  With all due respect to people like myself, one cannot enforce a law that is not defined.

With all I have heard about window-tint percentages, I have never heard what is the legally permissible blood alcohol or breathalyser level with regard to driving in this country. I stand to be informed if these levels exist. But if that is the case, I wonder why I am not hearing any reports of these tests when traffic accidents occur.


Are we assuming that all our accidents are caused by poor judgment or deep and wide potholes? I am sure that poor judgment plays a significant role, especially with all the cell phone use on our roads. And the potholes, well even Stevie Wonder can see they are getting bigger. But in the wee hours of the morning, after clubbing, the girls and boys go wild with booze.

And to talk of poor judgment, it is extremely poor judgment to drink unsafe levels of alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. But the sad truth is it comes down, unfortunately, to nothing but poor judgment if we cannot prove that the drunk driver is legally drunk; poor judgment on his part, and even poorer judgement on our part.

Is breathalyser testing that prohibitive? I am sure it takes money to have the traffic wardens check for the use (or non use) of seat belts and the compliance of other traffic regulations. Why not take it a step further and introduce systematic breathalyser testing in areas and situations where we know excessive drinking is likely to be a problem?

If we are going to make the roads safer, why not introduce a simple measure like breathalyser testing that has worked so effectively the world over? It is not like we have to reinvent the wheel; we just simply have to put it on the car. No more should we tolerate the foolish notion of people being able to hold their liquor.

So what are the measures we need to take? If we do not want to adopt the alcohol levels established by other countries, the police can work with the medical authorities to come up with the legal levels for us. There are many studies that indicate the judgment impairment that alcohol produces at different levels.

We also have to take measures to restrict the availability of alcohol. Yes, it might not be wise to go back to wholesale prohibition, as history tells us what happened in the United States when that was done. But I still contend that it is too easy to get alcohol in this country. It not uncommon to see school-aged children being sold alcohol, at times in their uniforms.

A drinking age has to be established, coupled with educating our youths. But several studies have shown that education without enforcement, as it pertains to alcohol abuse, does not go a long way. Hence, we cannot ignore the need to have specific legal guidelines.


In fact, if we can find ways to prevent alcohol misuse or abuse among our youths, it will not only make our roads safer, but will also prevent them from wasting years as wards of the criminal justice system. This point was borne out in a study presented by Dr Kevin Kunz at the conference of the American Society of Addiction Medicine held in April this year in San Francisco. In a portion of his presentation, he explained how alcohol drives the criminal justice system in the US.

From his research using official data, he showed 80 percent of incarcerated people in the US fall into one of four categories. They either were incarcerated for alcohol or other drug offence, intoxicated at the time of their offence, committed the offence for money to support their habit, or had a history of alcohol or other drug dependence. This cannot be what we want for our country.

Another area where we need to focus is at the point where alcohol is served. Regulations have to be made and enforced limiting the number of hours that alcohol can be sold by any establishment. That is, there has to be a cutoff point beyond which no more alcohol can be sold, and yes, close the night clubs earlier. The combination of alcohol and lack of sleep is not only dangerous, but a deadly mix. Hence, a major focus of breathalyser testing has to be in the vicinity of these establishments.

After the regulations would have been established and enforced, violators have to be penalized. Serious fines and licence suspensions have to follow breeches. This applies to drivers, bartenders, and others who vend alcoholic drinks.

As long as violations are found, it makes no sense to ignore the penal aspect. Although I will not stipulate specific punishments, the authorities have to come together and determine the extent of the penalties. The penalties however have to be severe enough to have deterrent value.


It has been part of our culture to glamourise drunken behaviour. There are too many calypsos and other popular songs where alcoholism and drug abuse are promoted. It is time we highlight the true picture. It is time we show those who do not make it home because of drunk driving, with a view to prevent that occurrence.  

Dr Jerry Simon (NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 462 0631).

Hits: 2766

17 Comments In This Article   

HEADER   

#17 Commuter » 2010-10-11 21:37

It always amaze me that there is a little fender bender, and the driver can get arrested and has to appear before the Court. More ridiculous are the cases with the one car accidents when no property or individual are hurt and the driver has to appear before the court. So what appears before the Court are cases with no victims
On the other hand of the problems that plague this society is that the police does not enforce the law in an even handed manner. Now this is not a singular problem the courts are very sympathetic; many times the fines are not enough to act as a deterrent. One does not have to criminalize every traffic offense but the police needs to be proactive. The Courts has to be more expansive in their thinking. Send the offenders to clean up the beaches. Place them in assignments that acts to make our every day quality of life better. Assign them to carry out chores for which there is claim "We don't have any money for that"
0
0
+
−

Commuter

Oppurtunity to get it off my chest

#16 Commuter » 2010-10-11 21:31

After learning that in order to get my Anu drivers license as a foreign driver license holder. I went to Coolidge airport police station hoping I could obtain an Anu drivers license. After I questioned the Police at the desk as to why wasn't I able to get the license? One of his superiors stepped up to the desk and began to question me as to how did I arrive at the Station. I informed him I got there by car. He then threatened to arrest me, and place me before a magistrate. for driving without a license for obviously I had arrived at the Police Station by driving without a current valid drivers license, because my third temporary had expired a few days prior. Here it is a was threatened with arrest in an attempt to obtain a permanent drivers license because the Police supervisor assumed I had drove to the station on a license that had expired but for 3 days. Sad thing It was only a 3 block walk from where I lived. So I drove to St Johns and was informed that the license had to be issued at a police station at Port of Entry . So off I drove to English Habour, where the Police Officer gladly issued the requisite documents.
0
0
+
−

Commuter

Not currently enforceable.....

#15 Texan » 2010-10-11 11:49

New laws would be great and would not doubt save some lives, however, for the police to enforce these laws would require them to actually patrol the streets and pull cars over. When was the last time anyone here saw a police officer in the process of a traffic stop? I am not talking about road blocks or traffic wardens stopping people. I am talking about a police officer pulling a vehicle over for speeding, failing to indicate, running a stop sign, running a red light, etc....

So while new laws to combat drinking and driving would be great they will never be enforced by the police or at least not in the near future.
1
0
+
−

Texan

re: aka D.SeeMister

#14 fnpsr » 2010-10-10 10:58

"Aka D.SeeMister", I agree with you.
0
0
+
−

fnpsr

Time for action

#13 aka D.SeeMister » 2010-10-10 09:17

@All commentators,
We all recognize Dr. Simon has raise a serious issue. By way of this medium I am asking Dr. Simon to prepare a follow up opinion piece on the subject.. All commentators should print and deliver this opinion letter to your Parliamentary Representative and solicit a reaction and make a request for the MP to do something to address the problem. Document your efforts.
another Dr. Simon article could provide you the opportunity to bring experiences of your MP on this issue. This may sound simplistic and useless but it is better than commenting as to this being a good article. This is a non political and social subject that enables frequent commentators to initiate an action rather speaking to the subject only. Time to use the power of the interactive media rather than just complaining and belly aching..
0
0
+
−

aka D.SeeMister

@ Buzzbomb

#12 AG » 2010-10-10 08:02

WISE ! You show real insight, just as Dr. Simon.
0
0
+
−

AG

Time for a change?

#11 Buzzbomb » 2010-10-10 06:56

There have been many traffic accidents and far too many including fatalities. My suspicions are when they occur at 4:00 AM or thereabouts, but I have seldom read about alcohol playing a role in any local paper from the autopsy report. Perhaps it is time for a change whereby we publish this information.
At the risk of emba**ment to the families of the drunk driver, we may get some real statistics to formulate new laws and perhaps save lives.
0
0
+
−

Buzzbomb

where is the outrage? - part 2

#10 fnpsr » 2010-10-10 03:15

As usual, the topics will surface every so often for discussion and inevitably; they will be forgotten until something happens. I recall a personal story here on Caribarena, titled. “An exclusive with Leslie Emanuel”, June 20, 2010, in which he painstakingly outlined what had happened to him because of drinking and driving. There were only two comments to that story.

So again I ask: where is the outrage?
0
0
+
−

fnpsr

whre is the outrage? - part 1

#9 fnpsr » 2010-10-10 03:14

Dr. Simon, I thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. You points and suggestions are all well and good, but nothing will happen until the politicians take affirmative steps to combat the situation. The good people of Antigua will have to begin to hold their representatives accountable. They have to demand that their representatives pass laws that will protect their well being and ensure that the laws are enforced.

I recall several accidents reported here on Caribarena where alcohol was suspected. In one particular case, the issue of a lack of a breathalyzer came up and it was stated that the police did not have one because of the lack of funding. Bloggers pointed out that this equipment was relative inexpensive and could be had for around US$200.00. One blogger even offered to donate the equipment.
0
0
+
−

fnpsr

cut off hours

#8 tenman » 2010-10-10 02:52

I recall there already being rules to enforce such see Nightclubs Get New Rules
Thursday, 05 February 2009 06:09 ALINAH ROBERTS url: http://www.Caribarena.com/antigua/news/latest/nightclubs-get-new-rules-200902051813.html

..
0
0
+
−

tenman

@ CountryMan

#7 Morris » 2010-10-10 02:13

I am not sure how easy it would be to go after the producers and wholesalers, but I do agree that they should go after the clubs (point of sale) like they do in some countries. For example, bartenders can/should refuse to serve patrons more alcohol once they notice that they appear to be too intoxicated. I like Dr. Simon's suggestion about cut off hours for serving alcohol, but with alcohol as the money maker in most of those establishments they are going to cry foul. I like your suggestion of adding a tax to alcohol to generate funds to assist those who become victims of alcohol related incidents, but that would be too tempting to the politicians for them not to misappropriate the money.
0
0
+
−

Morris

Interesting article

#6 Morris » 2010-10-10 02:03

Very interesting article and very good recommendations. Should these recommendations be adopted and enforced perhaps we can see it as a catalyst to help reduce crimes.
0
0
+
−

Morris

well said

#5 tenman » 2010-10-10 00:16

Well said Dr. Simon. I just hope we do not wait until an alcohol impaired person drives into a school bus and kills over 50 children before we start dealing seriously with this issue.
..
0
0
+
−

tenman

#4 buckhunter » 2010-10-10 00:04

Alcoholic Beverages are way to cheap compared to Soft drinks and bottled Water.
0
0
+
−

buckhunter

I'm just a Country Man

#3 CountryMan » 2010-10-09 23:40

I have always contended that the purveyors of alcohol at the productions wholesale and retail levels, should bear some responsibly for domestic violence. I have seen to many females beaten into a pulp by drunken spouses, common law husbands boyfriends. Yes no one sells rum or beer or any other spirit so they an beat up on females or others for that matter.
When does it becomes the responsibility for an industry, many of whom lives very well, to take a stand for a cause to address a societal problem that they may have indirectly contributed to? How about a alcohol tax that specifically funds shelters for abused spouses. I hear it now Lard! .. Lard! ..UPP.... ALP more taxes? It will just a sin tax. Would it prevent a tourist from buying another drink because it would cost twenty cents more if she knows their is an incremental cost added to address domestic abuse? i would think not.
0
0
+
−

CountryMan

This is what is to be rspected not just the credentials.

#2 CountryMan » 2010-10-09 23:24

Dr. Simon,
Thank you for stepping up. Kudos to you Sir.
This problem has far reaching effect as you know even beyond those you have mentioned here. Many elders choose not to drive at night because of this problem. These are individuals who would have traveled out to dinner or some other event. Consider the economic impact of elders (some 55 to 75) who are in a position to spend, felt safe to drive at night. Sure there are many other things that impact decisions other than drunken drivers. But as Dr. Simon alludes, drunken drivers enforcement is a low hanging fruit.
Again thank you to you Sir.
0
0
+
−

CountryMan

#1 AG » 2010-10-09 22:45

A MOUTHFUL !
0
0
+
−

AG

Add comment

Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Follow us on Facebook

Spotlight on Education

Previous Next
Govt to give Two Uniforms
Antigua St. John's - Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has confirmed...  Read more

Latest Opinions by Dr.Jerry Simon

App

Android LogoDownload Caribarena's Android App Click To Download

Find us on Twitter!