"Act responsibly." This is Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz's message to drivers this Carnival weekend as he pleads with them not to mix the dangerous cocktail of alcohol and driving a vehicle.Cadiz, in a Sunday Guardian interview, advised motorists to ensure they had a designated driver or hired alternative transportation instead of driving drunk on the nation's roadways.He maintained that drunk driving was a major problem in T&T, especially with young people.
"The statistics show that people between the ages of 18 and 34 account for 53 per cent of the road deaths/fatalities and it is something we are very concerned about. One of the main contributors to that is in fact drunk driving or what you call drink driving," Cadiz explained.He said there were other issues that had an impact on road fatalities such as safety belt use, texting, and using cellphones while driving.
However, Cadiz contended, one of the things that could be controlled very easily was drunk driving which could be checked by people taking responsibility.He also believes that the increased fines for drinking and driving will encourage motorists to do the right thing.A first-time offender now faces a maximum fine of $15,000, for a second offence $22,500, and, for a third offence, the magistrate has the power to permanently revoke a driver's permit and jail the offender.
Acknowledging that it was a season of merriment and that "Carnival is Carnival," Cadiz insisted that party-goers must engage in responsible behaviour."It (Carnival) is a big party and there is a high consumption of alcohol, etc, over the Carnival period. I am not telling people do not enjoy yourselves–you would want to enjoy yourselves. But do not do it to the detriment of your own lives and others," he said.
Even though today was Carnival Sunday, Cadiz said, there was still enough time to organise designated drivers or maxi taxis for group outings."When you think of what you are going to spend over Carnival with going to fetes and costumes and what have you, hiring a designated driver, for instance, is a very miniscule amount that will go towards what your total spend is, and then you can go and fete very safely and you do not have to worry about the driving," he said.
Cadiz dismissed the notion that drinking and driving was part of T&T culture."My simple answer to that or reply to that is, you cannot have a culture where you are putting other's lives and your own in danger by being stupid, driving drunk. That cannot be a culture," he said.While he agreed that there were still a number of people who were facing the courts for drinking and driving, Cadiz believes the awareness programmes that the ministry has embarked upon are working.
"I think we will get to that point where your friends are going to tell you do not drive drunk. Even before you go out to a function you are going to be organising a lift, a designated driver or get there by some other way, rent a maxi or whatever it is. It will take time," Cadiz added.