EDITORIAL: This season, decide not to drink and drive

If criminal sanctions, decades of awareness campaigns and frequent “cautionary tales” in the form of drunk driving-related accidents (and deaths) have not been enough to eliminate the scourge of drinking and driving on our islands, frankly, we’re not sure what will.

The sight of a car, mangled beyond recognition (not to mention the people trapped inside) should be more than enough to scare any person “sober” – to entice them to hand their keys to a designated driver, call a friend, hail a taxi, ride a bus … anything to avoid taking the steering wheel into their own hands, along with the lives of themselves and others. Clearly, that is not always the case.

But why? Especially on Grand Cayman, where there are so many options for alternate transportation?

It seems like an obvious question, particularly in the clarity offered by sunshine and sobriety.

However, people (who normally number themselves among the “responsible members of society”) tend to become emboldened by the very libations that make them a hazard to their own health and public safety.

They slip into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition and take a chance.

If luck is on their side, they arrive at their destination unscathed, and without causing harm to innocent people.

This time.

It’s a high-risk, low-reward chance that’s not worth taking. Choosing to drink and drive is a potentially life-altering (or -ending) decision that, unfortunately, is made on a daily basis in the Cayman Islands – but perhaps never more often than during the holiday season.

These next few weeks, when Christmas spirits (and alcoholic “spirits”) flow freely, have traditionally been some of the worst in terms of drinking and driving.

We urge police to step up their presence on the roads over the next few weeks, enforcing driving and safety laws. In Cayman it is illegal to drive under the influence of either alcohol or drugs – a violation that is punishable on first offense with a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months imprisonment or both. Those penalties double for repeat offenders, and if a judge wishes, he or she can suspend an offender’s license to drive for a year or even more – even on the first offense.

Legal punishments, though tough (but fair), pale in magnitude when compared to the grief and anguish of accidents, injuries and death. There is good reason impaired driving is illegal – it is incredibly dangerous. Alcohol slows brain functioning, dulls hand-eye coordination, slows reaction time and clouds a person’s judgment – all skills that are needed in abundance when you get behind the wheel.

Already, too many warm holiday memories have been marred by tragic alcohol- and drug-related accidents. Do not add more names to the list of the bereaved, or any more white memorial crosses on Cayman’s roadsides.

By all means, enjoy the season. But if you choose to partake in “Christmas cheer,” choose not to drive – to make it easy on yourselves, make plans for transportation home, before you leave the house, and long before that first sip.

It is one of the simplest and most valuable gifts you can give to your loved ones and to your community.

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