Tips for safe fes­tive sea­son travel

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

Al­co­hol con­sump­tion is the num­ber one pub­lic health and safety is­sue in most African coun­tries.

It plays a role in most per­sonal in­juries, from mur­ders, rapes, as­saults and sui­cides to all man­ner of ac­ci­dents, in­clud­ing fires and drown­ing.

It also causes all man­ner of dis­eases, di­rectly and in­di­rectly, and ex­ac­er­bates oth­ers. It de­lays re­cov­ery from many types of con­di­tions, in­clud­ing in­juries which may have been re­lated to al­co­hol use in the first place.

When it comes to hurt­ing hu­man be­ings, al­co­hol plays the star­ring role, and our love af­fair with it is one of sev­eral fac­tors hold­ing our pop­u­la­tion in the thrall of a vi­cious cir­cle of so­cial harms, not least of which are poverty and ig­no­rance.

on the roads, the harm­ful ef­fects of al­co­hol con­sump­tion are mag­ni­fied sev­eral times: peo­ple who have con­sumed al­co­hol are far more ef­fi­cient killers be­hind the wheel of ve­hi­cles which can travel nearly 300kph, with weights mea­sured in tons, than when wield­ing a kitchen knife in a drunken squab­ble.

other hu­man be­ings are not the only vic­tims: traf­fic lights, road-signs, power boxes and road bar­ri­ers are rou­tinely de­stroyed, at a cost of mil­lions to tax- and ratepay­ers, wast­ing money bet­ter spent on ser­vice de­liv­ery. Dam­age to pri­vate prop­erty ranges from sub­ur­ban walls and take-away ki- osks knocked down, to shacks com­pletely de­stroyed.

Out­side the ve­hi­cle, drunken pedes­tri­ans are also a ma­jor haz­ard, al­beit mainly to them­selves, and the preva­lence of pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties peaks over week­ends, par­tic­u­larly on Fri­day and Satur­day nights and in the early hours of Sun­day morn­ing.

The au­thor­i­ties have an im­por­tant role to play in less­en­ing this harm, through the de­tec­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of peo­ple who get be­hind the wheel af­ter con­sum­ing al­co­hol.

Ran­dom traf­fic stops ac­com­pa­nied by breath-test­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, have been cru- cial in coun­tries which have had suc­cess in tack­ling the is­sue.

The key to re­ally ad­dress­ing the is­sue, how­ever, is the stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of the prac­tice. In the United King­dom, it is not so­cially ac­cept­able to drink and drive, even among young men, who are the group most prone to the be­hav­iour.

So, while the UK has one of the high­est blood al­co­hol lev­els in the world (0.08 com­pared to 0.05 in South Africa and in­deed le­sotho), it has the low­est road deaths per capita (2.75 per 100,000 com­pared to 34 in SA).

Stig­ma­ti­sa­tion can be in­flu­enced by the au­thor­i­ties, through im­po­si­tion of stiff penal­ties on of­fend­ers (par­tic­u­larly those who kill and se­ri­ously in­jure oth­ers) and through education cam­paigns which make use of pow­er­ful and un­com­pro­mis­ing mes­sages.

The UK, for ex­am­ple, has manda­tory sen­tenc­ing guides for driv­ers con­victed of killing or se­ri­ously in­jur­ing other peo­ple while un­der the in­flu­ence, which in­clude jail time.

Also in the UK, road safety au­thor­i­ties have made use of hard-hit­ting re­al­is­tic ad­ver­tis­ing that por­trays the re­al­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion since the 1960’s.

South Africa still has some way to go. We don’t have a con­sis­tent sys­tem for deal­ing with of­fend­ers that sends out a clear and un­am­bigu­ous mes­sage.

— Var­i­ous sources

Al­co­hol abuse is among the ma­jor causes of road ac­ci­dents in ev­ery fes­tive sea­son.

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