Messages falling on deaf ears
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the authorities need to rethink their road safety messages. After years of drumming in the "don't do this and don't do that" type of communication, perhaps now is the time to review the results and establish the effectiveness of these communications and consider if it isn't time to up the ante on the "don't drink and drive" tune.
Surely road traffic authorities have access to all the information because it is easily obtainable from insurance companies, police, and medical and emergency statistics.
In fact, the only thing easier than getting road traffic stats is ordering another drink at a bar.
Perhaps the problem isn't that they don't know that they can access the information, but rather that they wouldn't know what to do with it if it landed in their laps.
Of course, there is also the glaringly obvious possibility that there isn't anyone of authority, who is definitively equipped with the necessary power, support and resources to change the overplayed and somewhat Draconian road safety message.
Ask anyone what the legal alcohol limit is and it is surprising to learn that not many people have a clue; or rather not as many people know the correct answer as one would think - given the amount of money, time and effort government has invested in its anti-drunk driving campaign.
Hence the question, which begs to be answered, is: "how does government implement an effective anti-drunk driving campaign?"
Perhaps one way to go about it would be to enlist the help of ordinary South Africans through a targeted, consistent and vigorously enforced campaign.
For instance, why are night clubs, restaurants, bars and even hosts of private parties not held accountable for not assisting to reduce drunk driving carnage?
That is where most people get hopelessly intoxicated and if anyone leaves an eatery or private function over the legal drinking limit, then the entity which hosted them should take part responsibility for any crimes or traffic offences their guests commit.
That is not to suggest that eateries serve less alcohol or allow people to sleep on the floor once patrons reach the legal limit.
It is surprisingly easy to reach the legal limit given that it is equivalent to one glass of wine, one beer or one tot of alcohol.
Could eateries not introduce a few simple measures as a way to contribute towards safer roads; such as refusing to serve anyone who is heavily under the influence of alcohol.
What would it take for the on-duty manager to ask a group of revellers who their designated driver is, just in case one hasn't been appointed, or calling a cab for anyone who stumbles out of their doors with keys in hand?
What would it take for waiters to serve a glass of water per every alcoholic beverage ordered, just as a reminder to party-goers to keep hydrated - or hand out breathalyser units?
There is much more authorities could do to help curb drunk driving if they applied themselves, and it is scary that more has not already been done.
The rest of us could also pitch in and get the car keys away from someone who is too drunk to drive. Easier said than done I'm sure but by taking away their keys you could be saving their lives.
Here are a few tips on how best to approach someone who is too drunk to drive:
- If it is somebody you don't know well, speak to his or her friends and have them attempt to persuade the drunk one to hand over their keys.
- If it is a close friend, use a soft, calm approach and suggest that he or she has had too much to drink and it would be better if someone else drove or to take a taxi.
- If it's a good friend, spouse, or significant other, say that if they insist on driving, you will not go with them but that you will call someone else for a ride, take a taxi or walk.
- Be calm, but firm. Try to make it sound as if you are doing a favour by driving them home and do all you can to avoid embarrassing the person or being confrontational.
- Locate their keys while they are preoccupied and hide them away. In most instances, they will think they've lost them and will be forced to find alternative transport.
By the way, the legal alcohol limit is 0.05g per 100ml of blood. Other than the speed limit, that is the other magic number all South African road-users should know best.