ALCOHOL intoxication is a dangerous condition — it’s when the alcohol concentration in the bloodstream exceeds the permissible limit. It affects a person’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate. In severe cases, it can be fatal.
Most people, at some point in their lives, have experienced some form of intoxication — during party nights, at a gathering among friends, or when clubbing.
Some young Malaysians are known to enjoy clubbing; they meet friends at nightclubs for dancing, drinking and socialising. Herein lies the crunch — when a group of friends are drunk to their eyeballs, who’s the sober one left to drive them home? None. A drunk person drives, but in his inebriated state, he is in no condition to drive.
When drunks drive, they are a menace on the road. A 2012 study by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) showed that a drunk driver is 13 times more likely to cause an accident, compared with one who is sober. Drunks are a danger to themselves and others on the road.
Last year, Transport Minister Anthony Loke told Parliament that drunk driving accidents were a leading cause of youth deaths. Figures from the Department of Statistics showed that between 2010 and 2015, 618 deaths were recorded due to drunk drivers.
The number could be higher based on the current scenario. The Miros study also revealed that some 23.3 per cent of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for alcohol. Considering that Malaysia has possibly the third highest road accident death rate in the region — this matter should be urgently dealt with. That’s why Wednesday’s announcement of stricter laws on drink driving is much lauded. In fact, it’s long overdue.
This Leader agrees with the transport minister that our laws are “quite liberal”. Take, for instance, Japan. It is among the countries with the toughest penalties for drink driving. And it is moving towards a zero-tolerance policy. If a driver is pulled over in Japan and is found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of above 0.03 per cent, or 0.15mg/l, he is “legally intoxicated”, according to a portal on Japan’s drink driving laws.
Taiwan’s BAC is also low at 0.05 per cent or 0.25mg/l. Ours is 0.08mg/l.
This newspaper hopes the government would also look into specific deterrent laws to reduce recidivism through treatment or rehabilitation, driving licence suspension, increased jail sentences, probation, or even community service.
Consider, too, mass communication campaigns, primarily on television, to drive the message home that “drink driving kills”. In Europe and the United States, such campaigns have long been a central part of efforts to prevent alcohol-related driving.
They can also be used to promote a wide range of objectives that can benefit youth.
There also needs to be a continued focus on alcohol control to lower consumption, especially among youth and problem drinkers. Malaysians, too, must exercise moderation in their eating, drinking and behaviour.
We tend to go overboard and forget that too much of a “good” thing is harmful. Exercising “moderation in all things, including moderation” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) does wonders for our health.