Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Creating a ‘designated driver’ culture

Published:Sunday | August 20, 2017 | 8:00 AM

School is out, but Malta and the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining are keeping road users 'in the know' with tips and advice on how to stay safe this summer. Look out for this Malta ROAD SCHOLARS road safety series for more information.

There's no denying that many events in Jamaica involve the consumption of alcohol - everything from a party to a nine-night includes a bar serving drinks. Needless to say, drinking alcohol and driving should be avoided at all costs, which creates the dilemma of how to get home after you've had a few drinks. Enter the designated driver, that bastion of sobriety who is willing to forgo his or her own enjoyment of a cold brew to ensure the safety of the rest of the crew.

As wise as this option may be, many partygoers fail to take a cab or assign a designated driver when planning a night out on the town. "Men are the biggest offenders," said Kenute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport. Statistics show that of the 286 drivers whose blood alcohol level was above the legal limit last year, 268 were male. "We don't have a culture of the designated driver in Jamaica, and that needs to change," said Hare.

EDUCATING PEOPLE

So where do we start? How do we begin to create the shift to embedding the designated driver in Jamaican culture? According to Hare, it should start with educating people about the implications of drunk driving. "Through the Road Safety Unit's outreach events and other activities, we hope to impart the implications of drunk driving as well as encourage road users to have a designated driver if they intend to drink."

In addition to education, there are organisations that actively promote responsible consumption of alcohol, which includes the use of a designated driver. "As part of our Drink Right initiative, Red Stripe encourages consumers to assign a designated driver through special programmes that incentivise that role," said Garth Williams, sustainability manager at Red Stripe.

"During high consumption periods, we have executed an initiative we call Who's Driving You Ja. Under that programme, we set up a Drink Right lounge at events such as Sumfest and Bacchanal that allows drivers to get free Malta and water, as well as play games to win great prizes." Designated drivers were also given VIP access to events.

"This kind of initiative incentivises the role of designated driver and makes the task appealing," asserted Hare, who is challenging Jamaicans to start building the culture.

So, as you plan your next outing with friends, here are some suggestions:

Make an agreement that if you are the designated driver, you get to drive one of your friend's fancy cars. Enjoy cruising around.

Being the designated driver shouldn't cost you anything. Friends should chip in for fuel before the evening begins.

Agree to buy the designated driver non-alcoholic drinks - simply having a cup in his/her hand can go a long way towards making the designated driver feel less

left out.

Check back with us next week Sunday for another instalment of this Road Scholars series, which will include tips for new drivers.