The National, Friday 7th September, 2012
WITH another public holiday a week away, the time might be right to make a statement on the dangers of drunk and careless driving.
Whether we are in the cities, towns or villages, as long as you are near a road and use it frequently as many in modern Papua New Guinea do, you will have no doubt witnessed or
seen the destruction, carnage and despair traffic accidents and car crashes have caused.
Car wrecks are becoming a common sight in busy metropolitan areas such as Port Moresby and Lae and on the main highways and arterial roads that link our towns and districts.
Only this week, we read of two accidents with fatalities; one in the nation’s capital and the other on the Markham Highway.
Alcohol or speed was suggested as a factor in one of the crashes and, although we do not know for sure, it sounds all too familiar.
The Markham accident is reminiscent of crashes that happened along that same highway several years ago.
It seems road users, whether they are behind the wheel or are the ones being ferried, have short memories.
If the aftermath of those collisions years ago has not spurred authorities into tighter and more effective controls on reckless and negligent motorists, then, we will indeed continue to record grim statistics.
Only last month, a driver who allegedly hit a pedestrian was in turn set upon by angry bystanders, causing his death and that of another occupant of the vehicle.
According to data compiled by the Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd, on average, there are 3,000 motor accidents recorded by the authority annually.
They involve 4,000 vehicles and reportedly 2,500 people die or are injured. This is a worrying statistic and, if trends continue, road accidents could be the number one killer in the community surpassing diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and even HIV and AIDS.
The MVIL data also shows that a combination of speeding and alcohol-induced impaired driving accounted for the majority of crashes.
Anecdotal evidence from emergency wards at our main hospitals suggests that the number of accident victims admitted peaked during weekends – Friday and Saturdays in particular – and also during the festive season and holiday periods.
The message is clear and simple enough for even a child to understand: If you drink, you should not drive.
But many drivers and vehicle owners flout this common sense rule of thumb.
The chances are if you are a person who likes to drink alcohol and also happens to have a driver’s licence, you have, at some point, driven a vehicle while under the influence of liquor.
Papua New Guineans are no different to people everywhere else but where the problems arise is in the management and control.
The police, the municipal, district and road safety authorities and the courts must work together to curb instances of dangerous driving.
They can do this in four ways: by promoting safe and responsible behaviour, enacting laws that penalise and prevent those who are prone to endangering the public when driving, fine minor offences and suspend licences if need be and make drivers responsible for their actions – the way a person would if he were to wield a potentially dangerous object with undue care.
Children must also be conditioned from an early age at home and in school that alcohol consumption and driving are two activities that can have dire consequences when down in tandem.