DEATH and serious injury from drink driving incidents on PNG roads have reached alarming levels, prompting calls for more driver education and a wider debate on ways to deter drink driving.
The need to curb fatalities and injuries and educate the population to the obvious dangers of alcohol when mixed with driving is obvious, according to two key figures whose jobs expose them to the prevalence of drink driving on an almost daily basis.
Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited (MVIL) is one organisation that can attest to the problems facing PNG in relation to incidences of road accidents across all motor vehicle classifications that are the direct result of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
MVIL representative Dr John Mua revealed that accidents involving drink driving were consistently in the top two major causes of road accidents.
“It is clearly a big issue; we can’t underestimate the problem in terms of those killed and the subsequent negative impact on surviving victims.
“It is an issue we need to tackle,” Dr Mua said.
This sentiment was also strongly backed by the PNG police, conversations with the director of traffic have revealed.
“Drink driving is the cause of most road accidents, it is a major problem on PNG roads,” Supt Wini Henao said.
Report after report on road accidents can be referenced to further highlight this obvious problem, while suggestions to combat the issue such as the use of breath testing devices are not so clear-cut.
“The breath testing units that have proven so effective in reducing incidents of drink driving in neighbouring countries are not currently an option for PNG due to legislation,” Dr Mua said.
He believed technology such as these devices were an essential weapon to detect inebriated drivers as the most dangerous offenders were mid-range drinkers, not the heavily inebriated.
“Someone who is drunk can be easily detected by authorities as the person has a tendency to drive very slowly because the senses are so diminished.
“The drinkers who are mid range intoxicated can easily escape detection from the current determining techniques,” Dr Mua said.
“They believe they are in a good state of mind to drive and they will speed and push the limit even though their reaction time is going to be impaired. This is how many accidents have been caused.” Supt Heneo also spoke of the limitations enforced on police without more sophisticated deterrents such as
breath testing units, and also suggestd more legislations were needed to enforce a crackdown on drivers.
“One test that is employed on a rare basis is making a driver suspected of drink driving walk a straight line but at the moment, these random tests are not undertaken to a satisfactory level,” he said.
“While some police are simply failing to do so, on top of the technology we need further legislation to provide more power to police, more police stations and more police,” he said.
Beyond the further empowerment of police, MVIL foresees a range of issues that will continue to need addressing.
“While we do not have the legislation to introduce new regulations and technology, in any event, the other problem is that so many of our residents have no fixed address, so how do you send fines or demerits?
“The only solutions I currently see are a draconian standpoint stopping people from driving altogether, or you educate them,” Dr Mua said.