OPINION: Say no to drunk driving, avoid mishaps

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The recent directive by the Vientiane Mayor to fine drivers who drink and drive has become a talking point throughout the country, with many people brainstorming ways to reduce and prevent accidents. 

The fines recommended by the Mayor are 10 to 20 times more than those levied previously.

Some of my friends in Xieng Khuang and other provinces who come to visit me and their relatives in Vientiane wonder where the traffic police are actually stationed. It is clear that most erring drivers manage to take “safe” routes and never get caught.

There is plenty of talk about how to avoid traffic cops after an evening of drinking, especially amongst youngsters who party often, and even among older people who like to drink socially.

Most have worked out ways to give the traffic police the slip, with some even drinking through the night and heading home in the wee hours when there are no police around.

Now that it’s raining quite often it’s less likely that police will be out on the streets checking for drunk drivers. 

A lot of people drink socially, especially when meeting up with friends and family. So it’s unfair to say that only wayward youth drink and unleash havoc on the roads.

To enforce road safety measures, a senior traffic police officer spoke recently about road safety on the radio, saying it was not the intention of the police to harass motorists, but to make the roads safe. He said the police are only working to enforce the regulations and to make sure that everyone complies with them.

He urged motorists to be law abiding and not to drive off in the event of an accident. Instead, drivers should stay at the scene and help the passengers in the car that has been hit or the person who has been knocked down.

There are CCTV cameras on the roads and it is difficult for anyone not to be caught even if they do drive off. In fact, the penalties are harsher if a driver flees the scene of an accident.

He said it is not a good idea to alert drunk friends on the roads about where the police are carrying out checks. Instead, people should pool resources, display good civic sense and advise everyone around them to drive safely.

The traffic police are known to let off erring drivers after pocketing hefty bribes. But the police officer told radio listeners that in the future these cheating policemen will be taken to task. They may be told to resign or be fined, depending on the gravity of the case.

He added that when a person is drunk and driving, his or her reflexes are poor and a driver is unable to respond to stimuli as quickly as when sober. This results in accidents and tragic loss of life.

Many countries have strict measures to prevent drunk driving. Thailand slaps a big fine on inebriated drivers and dumps them in jail.

Vientiane has taxis and people can book one to get home if they have had too much to drink. A cab can be booked on an app and can get you home safely and keep everyone else on the road safe too.

In Vietnam, when I went to a meet a friend, I saw everyone there using taxis when going out to drink. This service is safe and convenient and one does not have to worry about being stopped by the police.

It’s past time for people who like to drink and drive to mend their ways and take a taxi home after a long drinking session. Just give it some thought and take the safe way home next time.

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