Opinion: Handling alcohol

POSTED: 01/24/13 10:29 AM

Here is another view on driving and drinking. It comes, of all places, from Ireland, a country whose citizens are world-renowned for their ability to handle alcohol. In the Irish southwestern province of Kerry citizens are now allowed to drive their car after downing two of three pints of beer. The British newspaper The Guardian even suggested that the measure could prevent suicides.

The alderman who came up with the initiative to relax the rules for drinking and driving is Healy-Rae. He is, of course, a local pub owner. People in the country side drive on small roads and they have never killed anybody, the alderman argued.

He also noted that people in the countryside have to take a car to get to their pub. But two years ago the government introduced a new alcohol wet that banned the Irish from drinking a single pint (half a liter) of beer if they still have to drive.

Now the province wants to prevent that people start drinking a lot at home and that they become depressed and even suicidal.

The logic is typical Irish, and also inspired by the personal interests of a pub-owner. So one may well wonder what is more important: the bottom line of Irish pub owners or safety on Irish roads. For the time being the score seems to be 1-0 for the pub owners.

In St. Maarten we do not have such problems, because for some reason few people understand, driving under the influence is still judge with the good old drunken man’s test. Police officers then note that a motorist has difficulty speaking normally, and finally test whether said motorist is able to stand on one leg and to follow the white line.

Alcohol controls are rare here and maybe that is the problem: it is not important enough or we do not have the resources for it. Our women and men in blue have more important things to do. So for now, our motorists are happy go lucky characters; after all, they also drive on small roads. The difference is that on our roads we experience every now and then the most horrific accidents. Not very often, that is true, but often enough. So maybe it is time to take the Irish example as an source of inspiration to assess the situation on our island. Under the influence is not only about alcohol, it is also about drugs – and we have both products in ample supply on the local market.

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