BY DR NAVIN C NAIDU

Much is being discussed and debated today about this new nuisance threatening to escalate into a nightmare.

Everyone seems to bear the brunt of blame — the manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer, the seller and the willing buyer — and no one is strictly liable unless responsibility and accountability clash with ability relating to inability to handle the after-effects of drinking, and taking to the streets behind the steering wheel of a vehicle.

Some countries employ dram shop laws that hold bars, restaurants and other alcohol-selling establishments responsible for serving an inebriated patron who then causes an accident.

Even social hosts can be liable for this type of negligence. Forty-three states in the USA have enacted these laws and hold everyone responsible for irresponsible consumption of intoxicating beverages.

The DUI (driving under the influence) laws show no mercy for drunk drivers who hurt, maim or kill innocent people.

Laws aside, what should drinkers and suppliers of drinks be concerned about? A law in place will not stop irresponsible selling, drinking and equally irresponsible operating of a vehicle under the influence.

A bartender telling a visibly inebriated person that they will not be serving drinks anymore to him will probably walk out and patronise another outlet.

A bartender insisting that a customer take an alcohol level breath test is not going to take it sitting down without inviting expletives, curses and verbal assaults.

Perhaps parking a few police cars outside every bar would prevent drinking and driving? How do the police differentiate between a “good drinker” who can consume helluva lot of booze and still be responsible, and so be allowed to drive away?

What if liquor-serving outlets close for business at a mandatory 10pm deadline every night? But, what if irresponsible drinkers decide to stop frequenting bars and instead meet a mutual drinking spot like a friend’s home?

How do the police regulate or monitor this innovative approach to irresponsibility?

Controlling, restricting, regulating and monitoring social drinking may not be the solution in the long run, but how about mandatory counseling and revocation of driver licenses for first-time offenders, and prison terms for repeat offenders?

Can this stem the problem? These are the issues that State legislatures and Parliament must come to grips with after careful analysis of the primary causes, reasons and purposes for drink driving.

When I was in Seattle, Washington, USA for thirty years, DUI cases were becoming maniacally impossible to prevent, so the presence of police cars outside liquour stores and drinking joints became commonplace.

The liberals yelled “entrapment,” the cops screamed “far play,” the prosecutors and judges offered light sentences. Then public awareness took on a different tangent and surprisingly people became more responsible with the introduction of “dedicated drivers” services which made sure their drinking companions or ride-requiring customers didn’t take the wheels of their cars.

Maybe, we should introduce this stop-gap measure so that a new business can blossom driving excessive drinkers to their homes. One time, I saw a feller with a T-shirt which read “Dedicated Drinker.”!

It’s desperately exasperating to have to put with cigarette and liquour sales knowing both have the capacity to maim and kill.

Government needs the sin taxes to create a revenue flow, we are told, and therefore it’s good business. That sounds like, “taste, don’t swallow,” or the famous Clintonesque line, “yeah, I smoked a marijuana joint, but I did not inhale.”

So, ultimately, the question becomes whether the government should control the local manufacture, supply and sale of booze and cigarettes. But, if you do this you are encouraging the black market.

More revenue for the undesirables. Damned if you did, and damned if you did not. There’s got to be a way out of this mess.

Legislation and prosecution may have a chance at offering solutions and remedies, but individual sense of accountability and responsibility play a major role in self-control and abstinence.

That is where non-government agencies come in to play a crucial role in educating the drinking pubic. Some drink to be jocose. Some drink to be bellicose. Some do it to become lachrymose. Then there are others who do it to become comatose. So, we need differing and different counseling for all types of imbibers.

Epiphany: how about introducing a mandatory device in all old and new vehicles which records and determines your alcohol level in your breath, and triggers a mechanism that does not allow you to turn on the
ignition?

A breath-induced safety-measure. A built-in breathalyser.

In these pandemic times, some innovative inventor could make a ton of money if car manufacturers and car accessory shops take the initiative.

The public is safe, the drinker is rescued from potential danger, and all of creation can become creative including legislation.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.