NST Leader: Brake the alcohol habit
Alcohol, strangely, gets people all riled up. The NST writes:
Even journalists who are supposed to be dwellers of the kingdom of sobriety, at least when they hold their mighty pen, are intoxicated to no end. These and others wax indignant when a ban is suggested. It is a breach of human rights, they say.
We ask, when did drinking alcohol become a human right? Is this inebriation speak? Don’t get us wrong. We are not suggesting a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks.
But know this. Research in the United Kingdom and elsewhere says that a very thin line separates the alcohol-induced joy and the trouble it causes society.
The LawTeacher, a respected law journal, links excessive drinking and addiction to not only traffic accidents but also to crime and violence. We leave the decision to drink and harm themselves to those who are that way inclined.
But beware of a definition of the spirit put forth by an old ad. Alcohol: temporary fun with permanent consequences. We are not here to deny the temporary fun but rather the permanent consequences.
Drink-driving is not only harmful to alcohol lovers but also innocent teetotallers. This troubles us. It should trouble drinkers, too.
On May 3, the nation was aghast when a vehicle, allegedly driven by a drunk driver, rammed into a roadblock killing a police corporal. On May 24, another allegedly drunk driver drove against the traffic in Jalan Pintasan Kuantan crashing into another vehicle and killing the driver instantly. This isn’t just a May thing. It has happened many times before, in months and years of the past.
The law appears not to be doing its job. So aren’t others, like the family and the community. The beer companies and pubs who sell them liquor. We cannot continue to be so lame in the face of a growing danger to society. Something must be done.
First, the law. The Road Transport Act 1987 is a toothless tiger. Its bite, if we can call it that — imprisonment of three to 10 years and a fine of between RM8,000 and RM20,000 for causing death or injury while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs — has no deterrent effect.
Time for the law to treat drink-driving like the Penal Code offence of manslaughter, unless, of course, there is evidence to suggest that it is murder. Under Section 304(a) of the Penal Code, causing death by negligence carries a maximum of 30 years of imprisonment. We suggest a minimum of 30 years.
Compensation for the family of the victim must also be drafted into the law. It is not only the victim that the inebriated driver kills or injures. He “injures” the family of the victim, the community and society. This the law must make him pay. There is yet another provision that needs to be included. And it comes from an unusual source.
David Ogilvy, researcher-cum-copywriter par excellence, found, through some deep study, that graphic depiction of the death of drink-drivers at the wheels didn’t dwindle the number of drink-driving cases. But the threat of losing the driving licence did. This threat must be made real by the law. But leaving the burden entirely on the shoulders of the law won’t be wise.
The family and community which the drink-drivers are a part of must play their role. So must beer companies and pubs that peddle this “temporary fun”. Taking out social ads will be a good start.