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Opinion: Alcohol’s the real danger

Monday December 02, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
A bike rider crashes at Atupa, drying to avoid a dog. 19120108 A bike rider crashes at Atupa, drying to avoid a dog. 19120108

A billboard depicting a funeral says, ‘the problem with drink-driving is the mourning after’.

We are having too many funerals of our young men, something has to be done.

Compulsory helmets for everyone isn’t the solution. Putting a helmet on a mama going to church is not going to stop young men drinking and driving. We might feel we have tried to protect the vulnerable, but it’s a band-aid on a missile.

The better solution is to change our alcohol culture.

A helmet may save some lives but it won’t prevent the accident. Wearing a helmet makes some feel they are protected, invincible, they still drink, drive and have accidents.

The question is not, how do we save men from dying when they crash? The question should be, how do we prevent accidents from happening?

We are focused on the bottom of the cliff.

New Zealand statistics show too many die even with compulsory helmet laws. The hard road is to clean up the alcohol culture. Address this, and you will see barriers at the top of many cliffs, saving deaths from road accidents, domestic violence, child abuse and non-communicable diseases.

Voluntary groups like the Road Safety Council and the Titikaveka wardens lament another death on our roads. “It has to stop”, they say – although other factors of road conditions, alcohol, speed, lack of lighting, road blocks and police checks at night contribute.

“It’s too much to deal with, but helmets are one thing we can do now, while we wait for the law makers to address these problem areas.”

If Government voted for focused action, on alcohol, they would solve a myriad of problems simultaneously.

Aunties, uncles, cousins, 80-years-old, have been riding motorbikes for many years and continue to do so.  

They’ve carried children and grandchildren, from babies to teenagers, they ride every day. It is our culture, our lifestyle, it’s what most can afford.

I’d estimate 80 per cent of our homes have more motorbikes than cars. Hundreds ride bikes every day, all day, all weather, without incident – they should be entitled to continue their way because they are not putting themselves or others in harm’s way.

We have a helmet law that works. If you speed over 40kmh you must wear a helmet.

As soon as a person adds alcohol and speed, they become a ticking time bomb.

Helmets may help a woman being beaten by a drunk partner but will it help the child?

Focus on the cause, educate in schools and media; clean up drinking laws, make it 21 years; have photo ID for bars, fine those who serve drunks and underage.

Have breath tests in carparks of bars; issue learner’s licences to 16- to 18-year-olds and don’t let them drive after 10pm; encourage traffic wardens in every village, give them licence to remove car and bike keys.

Have buses take drunks home, use alcohol taxes to pay; get church elders to counsel drunks in their congregations, enforce stricter penalties; have zero tolerance for alcohol related crimes – regardless of who you are, no one should be immune to the laws of drink driving, family violence and abuse.

Alcohol is killing our community values and health.

Demanding compulsory helmets is an easy one for MPs, who say little, to latch onto.

The harder, less-travelled road is to diminish the killing effect alcohol has on our roads and in our homes.  

Question? Who’s brave enough to fight it? Which MPs will vote for life and lifestyle?

Ruta Tangiaau Mavé

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