KBL and BBL Corporate Affairs Director, Tickey Pule, has appealed to the public to support all efforts to discourage the abuse of alcoholic beverages.
In particular, she focused on drink driving and the resultant impairment of normal driver behaviour which reduces the ability to adequately perform various elements of the driving task.
Traditionally, enforcement and deterrence have been the principal approaches for prevention of alcohol-impaired driving; a basic component of which is the setting of a maximum legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for drivers of motor vehicles.
Driving requires a variety of skills that change continually depending on the environment and other road users. A driver must maintain alertness and be able to react quickly to hazards, see clearly, and possess the ability to judge distance and speed.
Certain drinking patterns can impair a number of the skills necessary for safe driving. For example, the reaction time of an inebriated driver may be reduced by up to 10 ÔÇô 30 percent. Impaired drivers are also less likely to secure their seat belts and more likely to exceed speed limits, thereby significantly increasing the risk of severe crash-related injury.
In Botswana, the legal permissible limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers is set at 0.35 mg/ml.
Blood Alcohol Content determines the degree of intoxication of drivers and is a measure of the amount of alcohol prevalent in blood and expressed in terms of weight per volume, translating into grams of ethanol per decilitre of blood (mg/ml).
This type of prevention of alcohol-impaired driving is a prime example of a risk reduction approach, where the aim is not to eliminate alcohol consumption-or driving-but to separate the two activities, so that the risks of harm are lowered for both drinkers and society at large. The implementation of blood alcohol testing for drivers and its enforcement are the key components of this type of intervention, along with strategies that separate drinkers from driving such as designated driver campaigns and improvements in public transport.
According to Pule, young drivers who drink and drive are at higher risk for being in crashes, including alcoholÔÇôrelated crashes, than older drivers. The reasons vary and include their lack of experience in driving, overestimating their driving skills, overall propensity to take risks, and likelihood to experiment with heavy episodic drinking. Nevertheless, there is no reason or excuse for anyone to drink and drive as this is regressive and puts both drivers and pedestrians at great risk.
Pule said, “Increasing awareness among drivers about the dangers of drink and driving, as well as ensuring that they are informed about existing laws, the risk of being detected, and the consequences are all critical as measures to reduce alcohol-related accidents.”
“We need a combination of measures including public awareness, a concerted enforcement of drink-driving laws, and corresponding sanctions that not only punish but serve as a deterrent to driving under the influence of alcohol. Because drinking and driving affects society at large, co-operation is needed between government, law enforcement, retail trade, communities and most importantly, drinkers themselves, stressed Pule.
In order to continue to make improvements and reduce the incidence of alcohol-impaired driving, a vigorous commitment is needed to tackle particular high-risk patterns of alcohol consumption with targeted interventions and the engagement of all stakeholders through partnerships and complementary actions, said Pule.