EDITORIAL – Clink, clink; Drink, drink; Wink, wink

According to police data on traffic offenses, the number of charges for DUI (that is, “drink driving”) declined by 36 percent in 2015, compared to the previous year.

To our readers who have been present for “closing time” at any of our country’s bars, restaurants or black-tie gala affairs (in other words, where alcohol is being served): Who believes the drop in DUI charges reflects a decrease in drinking or an increase in conscientiousness among nocturnal revelers?

Let’s be honest. The DUI numbers can be virtually anything we choose them to be. If the RCIPS decides to issue no citations for driving under the influence, the number would decline to zero. But it would not be an improvement.

Or, conversely, if the RCIPS were to stop every vehicle every night on West Bay Road, for example, to check for inebriated drivers, the DUI numbers would skyrocket.

Adding context to the DUI data point is another data point – fatal road accidents (a metric that is accurately measurable). The one-third decline in DUIs in 2015 was accompanied by a threefold increase in the number of road deaths. In total, 12 people died as a result of traffic accidents in Cayman last year. Many are in mourning because a few made poor decisions while intoxicated.

The first fatal traffic accident in Grand Cayman this year, claiming the life of National Roads Authority worker Denvil Roy Mitchell, potentially involved alcohol, though not on the part of Mr. Mitchell. Following a collision on the evening of Feb. 21 between Mr. Mitchell’s motorcycle and an SUV, a 53-year-old man was arrested by police on suspicion of drunken driving and suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

Inspector Adrian Barnett, head of the RCIPS Traffic Management Unit, preached a message that is all too familiar, but absolutely true: “The fact is that drinking and driving, speeding and the general failure of drivers to pay attention to what they’re doing continue to be the main causes of fatal accidents.”

Let us add our own unoriginal observations. If you drink, do not drive. If you’re going to drive, don’t drink. You could very well kill or injure yourself … or even worse, someone else.

Our public transportation system is imperfect, but options do exist. Flag down a bus. Hail a cab. Call a friend or relative.

A feeling of stewardship should extend to those you happen to be out with. If you see someone who is not fit to be behind the wheel, speak up. As the saying goes, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

There’s also a corollary to that saying: “Good friends don’t let friends walk drunk.” Some reports have shown that it is more dangerous to attempt to walk home while intoxicated (if the distance is short), than it is to drive home intoxicated. The danger for drunk pedestrians, of course, is drunk drivers. We don’t recommend either.

Consider the example of the 29-year-old visitor who, after leaving a Seven Mile Beach bar early Tuesday morning, was approached by a masked assailant and viciously beaten, injured and robbed.

Likewise, Grand Cayman is far too populous and its roads are far too narrow and crowded (with vehicles and pedestrians) for police to maintain a laissez faire attitude toward the extremely dangerous and illegal practice of driving drunk.

We concede the difficulty of enforcing drinking-and-driving laws in a tourist destination. Much of the tourism experience – not just here but everywhere – revolves around restaurants, bars, partying and revelry. The conundrum raises questions over how much enforcement is enough enforcement.

This is not just a matter for the police. It’s anyone’s responsibility – comrades, bar workers, hotel staff, valets – who witnesses an intoxicated person about to settle into the driver’s seat, and who does nothing about it … except maybe to open the car door for them.

Instead of being seen as the fastest way to get home, driving drunk should be feared as the fastest way to a jail cell. Death by vehicle is far more common than death by firearms in the Cayman Islands.

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  1. Very good editorial. I take a little bit of an issue with the concession of difficulty enforcing DUI laws in a tourist destination. This makes it sound as if you condone tourist drink driving since they are just here to have fun. I believe most people are aware of the not so big secret that if you are driving with a white license plate you are pretty much immune to the road safety laws here and that contributes to the general attitude of acceptance of drink driving.

    There are several things government could do to enhance road safety here. #1 – have buses run late and/or start/allow some sort of drunk bus on the weekends that at least runs up and down seven mile. #2 – regulate taxis more effectively and require taxi meters. This also includes granting more taxi licenses or allowing some sort of Uber type of system. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called and waited ages for a taxi to arrive or taken a taxi and then been ripped off by the driver because I was drunk and he or she wanted to charge 25 dollars for a trip of only a mile. It’s a joke amongst people how terrible the taxis are here and how likely you are as an expat or tourist to be ripped off by the driver. The taxi drivers are part of the problem when they are so unreliable that people would rather drink drive than call a cab.

  2. I too must support the editorial report on this, and whether we want to accept it or not , death by vehicle, drunk driving is more common than by the gun here in Cayman.
    However I also do believe that , according to the police data, DUI has declined in 2015, because many friends I know have expressed openly “I am going home with my six pack , or bottle of vine and invite friends over”, so if any one has too much we always have a designated driver to take them home.
    Preaching to people that drunk driving kills, is like telling a duck that if he goes in the pond he will drown. They just not accepting that.
    So the only alternative is the police. I still say that police should show their presence around these bars and night clubs at closing time. Just the very sight of the uniform, some people will tell you, sobers them up right away.
    Anyway it is sad and heart breaking to loose a loved one suddenly by the negligent drunk driving on another, and it is left for each and everyone of us to think about this and do our part. Not to get behind a motor vehicle driving wheel when drunk.

  3. I know the young tourist who was viciously beaten last week and who is mentioned in this editorial on DUI. I met him two years ago while lecturing at a University in Frankfurt, Germany. After the lecture, he approached me to discuss the topic and expressed his interest in some day travelling to the Cayman Islands.
    Well, he saved his money for two years and finally arrived on Grand Cayman. Then less than 7 hours after he arrived, the beating occurred, his arm was broken, his holiday was spoiled and his confidence in advertising claims was destroyed.
    You see, he was an easy target because he had been told repeatedly that the Cayman Islands was the safest place on Earth. He let his guard down because he had been assured that he was here to enjoy being in paradise.
    So yes, DUI is a serious problem here in Cayman. But that young tourist wasn’t drunk. He was walking down West Bay Road because a taxi driver quoted him a return-trip price that was $20 more than he had paid to arrive on Seven Mile Beach, so he was hoping to catch another cab that might offer a more sensible price for his ride back to his host’s home. When the car with his assailant pulled up next to him on West Bay Road, his guard was down and his nightmare began.
    DUI is an unconscionable act. But so is our nation’s vigorous marketing campaign that is leaving our foreign guests unprepared for the reality of our not-so-Cayman-kind island.

  4. You need to have reliable, relatively inexpensive public transportation, whether bus or taxi, that runs until late at night. We learned long ago when visiting Cayman, rent a car. Do not use the taxis because the taxis are the biggest rip off imaginable, even compared to New York City. You got that? Tourists come here from Manhattan, San Fransisco, Washington, DC, and they cannot believe the rip off tactics of Cayman’s taxis. Plus, almost every taxi driver we have ever encountered while visiting your beautiful country has been rude and surly, like they resent us for being here. So anyone who has visited before would never choose to depend on a taxi while in Cayman. It is really too bad. When I go to Manhattan, I would never rent a car because taxis are available at all times, they are all metered, and you know that it will be affordable.