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Raising drinking age way to go

Thursday October 11, 2018 Written by Published in Local
This group of riders, two of whom were not wearing helmets, looked unhappy about being photographed when they were stopped by police at a checkpoint in Panama late last month. 18100918 This group of riders, two of whom were not wearing helmets, looked unhappy about being photographed when they were stopped by police at a checkpoint in Panama late last month. 18100918

Increasing the age when people are allowed to consume alcohol to 20 would not only reduce motor accident deaths, but would help curb other social problems affecting the Cook Islands, an island resident says.


In a letter to the editor of CINews the resident, who writes under the name ‘Teetotaller”, says  that changing the legal age for consuming alcohol from “13 to 20” (the current age is 18) would actually be the answer.

That’s because some Cook Islands youngsters as young as 11, are drinking alcohol, he claims.

“Lots more are drinking at the age of 13, and by the age of 18, they are old hands with a problem.”

The main thrust of the letter, however is motorcycle accident fatalities and the letter writer notes another motorcyclist died in a crash on Sunday, September 30.

“Again there was no mention (in police reports) of whether the victim was wearing a safety helmet, which (to me) means the motorcycle rider who died probably wasn't wearing one,” the letter writer says.

“Those involved in the past four major accidents involving three fatalities must have been wearing helmets because there is never any mention of helmets. That, I believe, is because the facts are hushed over when a motorcyclist wearing a helmet still dies. The statistics are there for us all to read, and we are living them.

“Sixty per cent of helmet wearers will still die if they suffer a really bad accident. Less than half will survive, but in what shape?

“Despite this and the constant reports in the paper about accidents and speed, despite the increasing and alarming number of cars having accidents and ending up in ditches and riverbeds due to alcohol and speed, the police continue to harangue and harass school students caught riding to school without helmets. 

“Take a look at the record books. No students have died while travelling to school on their motorbikes. Students who have died on our roads (in the past) were speeding late at night after consuming alcohol. So why don't the police and the well-meaning folk at the ‘helmet police’ station look at changing the drinking rules in this country? 

“Putting a helmet on a child is not going to stop this madness.”

The letter-writer urged police minister Mac Makoroa to address what he claimed was an escalating alcohol problem in Cook Islands society.

“Because in some case as these youngsters get older, alcohol is not enough for them. And so we have a very dark and scary drug problem infiltrating our community, involving all cross sections of society.

“With drinking comes abuse and many of our young girls are finding themselves pregnant and mothers before they are 14 years old.”

However, police spokesman Trevor Pitt says some of the letter-writer’s remarks are “off the mark.”

“For a start, some of the arguments (he makes) are a bit muddled. The police, for instance, do not target school students. This claim is unsubstantiated and inconsistent with police data.

“Students are simply part of the demographic, which the helmet law was provided for: 16-25 year olds. Police must enforce the law. Just last weekend, at least 10 motorcyclists were fined for not wearing a helmet.”

Pitt agrees alcohol is a significant problem in terms of accidents and in court, where he said drink-driving charges dominated the traffic offences.

“Off the road, it is a major contributor to domestic violence and the (cause of) ongoing requests to the police for help in keeping the peace around homes.

Pitt said he had previously written about the failure of motorcyclists to take adequate care on the road.

“In nearly all cases of motorbike crashes, drivers are not wearing helmets. And in the majority of road incidents, the offenders are above the age of being required to wear one (26 and over).

“Figures over the past six months show that alcohol was the primary contributor to motor vehicle crashes.  The driving culture and the attitude/behaviour of drivers is at the core of the road incidents.  This is what leads to the drinking and speeding, the other significant factor. 

“Driver attitude and behaviour on Rarotonga is seriously deficient.”

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