What More Can Be Done to Stop Drunk Driv­ing?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - CRIME - By Lex Ne­gus

D rink­ing al­co­hol is a part of Caribbean cul­ture, in­her­ited from the days of slav­ery. Still to­day it re­mains a cor­ner­stone of the Caribbean’s tourism prod­uct, with ev­ery is­land brag­ging that its lo­cal spir­its are su­pe­rior. It is a cen­tral part of our car­ni­val fes­tiv­i­ties, sec­ond only to soca mu­sic. That be­ing said, it is not sur­pris­ing that the abuse of al­co­hol, and drink­ing and driv­ing by ex­ten­sion, are prob­lems faced by each Caribbean gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, in 2010, Saint Lu­cia ranked 35th in the world and sec­ond in the Caribbean for the con­sump­tion of pure al­co­hol by adults, beaten only by Gre­nada which ranked 13th glob­ally in the same year, and first in the Caribbean. With such high al­co­hol con­sump­tion sta­tis­tics one would ex­pect equally high in­ci­dents of al­co­hol use while driv­ing and the pros­e­cu­tion thereof to be com­mon­place; how­ever, that is not the case.

The Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle and Road Traf­fic Act Chap­ter 8:01 sec­tion 75 makes it an of­fence to “drive a mo­tor ve­hi­cle on a road or have care of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle on a road or other pub­lic place, WHETHER IN MO­TION OR NOT, while in­tox­i­cated”.

Un­der this law it is an of­fence to be in con­trol of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle while in­tox­i­cated, the ve­hi­cle does not need to be mov­ing and it has even been ar­gued that sim­ply be­ing in pos­ses­sion of your car keys can show suf­fi­cient con­trol to give an of­fi­cer grounds for an ar­rest. A drunk man sit­ting in the driver’s seat of his car at the side of the road can be ar­rested, charged and con­victed un­der the law in force in Saint Lu­cia. If found guilty the driver is li­able on sum­mary con­vic­tion to a fine of $5,000 XCD or up to one year in prison.

“In­tox­i­cated” is de­fined un­der the leg­is­la­tion as hav­ing an al­co­hol con­tent of over:

• 80 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per mil­li­liter of blood,

• 107 mil­ligrams of al­co­hol per mil­li­liter of urine, or

• 35 mi­cro­grams of al­co­hol per 100 milliliters of breath. The law also pro­vides po­lice of­fi­cers with the power to stop driv­ers who are rea­son­ably sus­pected of be­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs, other than al­co­hol, and force them to sub­mit to a test. There­fore, a man who is high on mar­i­juana while driv­ing can also be charged un­der sec­tion 75.

A po­lice of­fi­cer who sus­pects a driver to be in­tox­i­cated may ar­rest the driver and make him sub­mit to a test whether for al­co­hol or drugs, with or with­out the con­sent of the driver. If the driver fails or re­fuses to sub­mit him­self to the test when re­quired to do so by a po­lice of­fi­cer he may also be charged for such fail­ure, the penalty for which is the same as if one had been charged with driv­ing while in­tox­i­cated: $5,000 XCD or up to one year in prison.

The of­fi­cer may also

The prob­lem right now is that the po­lice in Saint Lu­cia do not have an ef­fi­cient and con­ve­nient mode of test­ing mo­torists who they sus­pect of be­ing un­der the in­flu­ence be­hind the wheel. Cur­rently, blood tests are most com­monly used by the po­lice for test­ing but that usu­ally re­quires po­lice of­fi­cers to take the driver to the near­est hospi­tal or health fa­cil­ity to have the blood drawn.

choose to de­tain the driver at a po­lice sta­tion un­til it ap­pears to him that the driver is no longer in­tox­i­cated or he may choose to re­lease the driver into the care of a friend or rel­a­tive.

The ques­tion is: with the preva­lence of al­co­hol use and the laws be­ing avail­able to the po­lice, why are drunk driv­ing laws not be­ing en­forced?

The prob­lem right now is that the po­lice in Saint Lu­cia do not have an ef­fi­cient and con­ve­nient mode of test­ing mo­torists who they sus­pect of be­ing un­der the in­flu­ence be­hind the wheel.

Cur­rently, blood tests are most com­monly used by the po­lice for test­ing but that usu­ally re­quires po­lice of­fi­cers to take the driver to the near­est hospi­tal or health fa­cil­ity to have the blood drawn.

One can only imag­ine the dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with blood test­ing: the de­lays in tak­ing the test may skew re­sults, the amount of man­power as­so­ci­ated with es­cort­ing each sus­pect to the hospi­tal and the im­prac­ti­cal­ity of hav­ing of­fi­cers leave the scene of an ex­er­cise to es­cort each sus­pect, the ad­di­tional strain of al­ready over­bur­dened med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and the cost as­so­ci­ated with con­duct­ing each test. What then is the so­lu­tion? Other Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries like Ja­maica and Trinidad and Tobago make use of breath­a­lyz­ers.

Breath­a­lyz­ers were in­tro­duced in Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2010 and the Guardian news­pa­per re­ported in a 2012 ar­ti­cle that from the time of their in­tro­duc­tion there were some 1,100 ar­rests for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence, sev­eral of which re­sulted in the driv­ers pay­ing hefty fines.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of breath­a­lyz­ers would be in the best in­ter­est of both the gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple. On the one hand the gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits from the fines which the driv­ers would pay and the peo­ple ben­e­fit from hav­ing safer roads!

With lit­tle to no charges against in­di­vid­u­als who drive while in­tox­i­cated in Saint Lu­cia, it is ques­tion­able how se­ri­ously lo­cal au­thor­i­ties con­sider the crime.

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