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.