EDITORIAL – Don’t drink and drive: The celebration stops when the engine starts

As Christmas spirits rise, and holiday “spirits” flow, please do not drink and drive. Your lives (and ours) depend on it.

Hand your keys to a sober companion, phone a friend or hail a cab – anything other than getting behind the wheel if you have imbibed.

Alcohol is a social lubricant, safely enjoyed by many this holiday season. We are not such Grinches as to suggest that merrymakers limit themselves to libations no stronger than tea. Raise a toast with the beverage of your preference: Champagne, sorrel, fruit punch or plain tap water will all do.

But do not let your festivities lead to fatalities, or your holiday turn into a nightmare. Know and respect your limits, and assess those limits before you start drinking. Do not trust the liquid “courage” that leads to overconfidence in one’s ability to drive. Remember, good judgment dissolves in alcohol.

Nobody is immune from alcohol’s inebriating influences. Motor skills are muddled, judgment clouded, vision significantly impaired. Each drink you take intensifies these effects. Two (or three) sheets to the wind, encased in steel and careening down a public road, you jeopardize your own life, the lives of your passengers and that of any unlucky person who happens across your wobbly path.

Our country’s problem with drinking and driving is well-documented. According to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, 339 people have been arrested for driving under the influence so far this year – including 21 just in the first two weeks of December.

Inspector Ian Yearwood, head of the RCIPS’s traffic department, told the Compass this week he believes alcohol is a contributing factor in many vehicle collisions, which occur in Cayman at an astonishing average rate of 10 per day.

Police are once again conducting their annual show of force in an attempt to clamp down on drunk driving during the holidays. Extra officers and special constables will join Inspector Yearwood’s traffic unit patrols to seek out and remove impaired drivers from Cayman’s roads. (They will be removing those drivers into custody, into court, and perhaps into prison.)

With roadblocks planned throughout the Christmas holiday and into the New Year, police are on heightened alert for reckless revelers who are driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs – a violation that is punishable on first offense with a fine of up to $1,000, and up to six months of incarceration. That goes double for repeat offenders.

Inspector Yearwood told the Compass, “It is not worth the risk. At the minimum, you will suffer the loss of your driving license for a year. In the worst case, you could be involved in a collision that results in injury or loss of life to you or someone else.”

On New Year’s Eve, generous-hearted sponsors are again funding the Purple Ribbon Bus Service to shuttle partiers home. (More than 1,000 people availed themselves of the free “designated driver” service last year).

There is no excuse for excessive drinking, which leads inexorably to erratic driving, at any time of the year, but perhaps especially at Christmas. Celebrate the season responsibly, and keep yourself – and these islands – holiday safe.

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