Cops given go-ahead to charge for drinking and driving
The administration is seemingly satisfied with the awareness campaign as it relates to the new legislation aimed at curbing the scourge of drinking and driving.
Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, made the order bringing the amendments to the Evidence and Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act into force last week Monday.
Last January, more than six months after the National Assembly approved the Evidence and Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2008, which facilitates a two-beer limit for drivers, the President said that the Bill was not brought into force and blamed the Guyana Police Force for the failure to do so.
President Jagdeo at the time had voiced his displeasure with the Public Relations work of the Guyana Police Force at its failure to sensitize the public to the consequences of breaching the new law.
The Guyana Police Force, at that time, had sought to defer the blame saying, that it is not the entity charged with driving the public relations programme. Rather, it is the Ministry of Home Affairs.
According to Jagdeo, the meager public relations programme on the consequences of drinking and driving as these relate to the legislation leaves much to be desired. He noted that he did not want to bring into force the legislation when the general public was not fully aware of its effects.
Jagdeo suggested that there would be widespread confusion were the legislation to be assented to and the populace not aware of the consequences.
The President added that from the inception he had informed the police that he would not enact the legislation until he was satisfied with the level of PR as it relates to the penalties provided for in the proposed law. He called for the police to up their strategy.
This was done given that subsequent to his pronouncement there was a massive campaign launched.
Under the proposed legislation, the use of a Breathalyzer or blood test will determine the alcohol levels in a person suspected to be under the influence of alcohol.
When the legislation came up for debate in the National Assembly in July last year, both sides of the House unanimously agreed to its provisions with some even calling for the alcohol limit to be less than the equivalent of two beers. The legislation was tabled successfully by Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee who pointed out that the thrust of the Bill, “goes to the heart of Driving under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol and seeks to address the age-old problem.”
He noted that DUI was an extremely serious problem facing the country and has resulted in numerous deaths on the roadways.
He noted that the legislation was timely, given the culture of Guyanese, especially at weekends where there are a lot of activities where people imbibe and subsequently get behind the wheel.
He said that several organisations, including the Guyana Police Force, have sought to edify the public as to the dangers of drinking and driving with little success.
“Education and Law must go hand in hand to address DUI,” said Rohee.
Leader of the Alliance for Change, Raphael Trotman had told the National Assembly that he supported the Bill. “Better late than never,” he said.
PNCR shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Deborah Backer, in announcing her support for the legislation, had called for an intense public relations campaign being necessary given that in order for the legislation to be effective it would require a change in the culture of Guyanese.
She added that the public must understand that the legislation was not a matter of cutting down on a person’s fun; rather, it was aimed at saving lives.
Backer, who has been an advocate of several of the clauses in the legislation following its passage, expressed her joy that “the Bill will see the light of the day”.
She emphasised that it was quite common for persons who drink to have more than two beers.
“The statistics don’t lie and DUI is a major killer around the world and there are also several spin-offs such as the cost of dealing with the injured among others.”
According to the legislation, a person shall not drive or attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on the road or other public place if he/she has consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the proportion thereof in his/her breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit.