Traffic amnesty and second-hand smoke

Published: Sunday | January 20, 2013 Comments 0
Egerton Chang
Egerton Chang

Egerton Chang, Contributor

What started out as a fun day nearly ended in misfortune. This was December 28 last. Most of my children, plus two of their relatives, who were house guests were heading to Maiden Cay that Friday. Apparently, this gathering was planned annually by a large group of fun seekers, mostly on vacation from colleges/ universities, to converge on that tiny island for a big party where music, fun, food and liquor were to be consumed.

Seeing that they and their friends would be going, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I felt good to know that they were going as a family, something I thought they should do more often rather than heading their separate ways.

The only instruction I gave, repeatedly, was to wear life jackets.

BINGE DRINKING

Anyway, the younger of the two sisters who were house guests came back very drunk. A young adult almost 20, she met up with her friends and had been binge drinking.

There is currently no worldwide consensus on how many drinks constitute a binge, but in the United States, the term is often taken to mean consuming five or more standard drinks (male), or four or more drinks (female), on one occasion. (Wikipedia). This is especially true if there is not enough physical activity or sufficient time for the alcohol to work itself through the body.

To compound the problem, she was of slight build, barely weighing (in my estimation) 100 pounds. What most people don't understand is that a big person can consume more than a small person, and that the physiology of women means that they can consume even less.

She was convulsing and vomiting repeatedly. My children tried all the 'known' methods of bringing her back. Hot coffee, lots of water/liquids, cold shower, eating bread, etc., without much effect, seemingly. What they didn't realise was that each attempt was helping in a small way. So that by the time my wife and I got home, most of the worst effects had passed.

However, she was still in a bad way. This caused me to surmise that she had a bit more than four drinks - probably as many as six or seven. Just one or two more drinks could have put her body into serious distress as a result of alcohol poisoning.

The most common risk of consuming massive quantities of alcohol in a short period of time is a dangerously high blood alcohol level. The result is called alcohol poisoning (overdose), which can be fatal, according to Wikipedia). There is a thin line between overdrinking, binge drinking, and alcohol poisoning.

She said that this was the first time she had ever been drunk and, fortunately, she was well enough (barely) to make her 5:30 a.m. trip the next morning to college in the US.

I wonder how widespread binge drinking is and how many deaths from alcohol poisoning are recorded in Jamaica on a yearly basis.

It's unsettling to know that as we all go about our daily lives, something can happen to throw everything into disarray. I, personally, wouldn't know what I would tell her mother if anything worse had happened. Yet, if truth be told, virtually every day, each one of us has relatives or friends who have missed death or serious bodily harm, some more narrowly than others. In reality, maybe they are not even aware of how close.

She realised her mistake and resolved never to do that again. And I believe her.

THAT TRAFFIC AMNESTY

My call for Government to implement this amnesty was published September 18, 2011, and within two months, the Government announced a amnesty. While it took over six months to implement, it finally commenced in July last year.

It was scheduled to run to the end of 2012, and Jamaicans, being Jamaicans, decided to wait until the last week to pay their fines. So, we were treated to photos and video clips of the long lines at the various collectorates.

I was no exception. I had made some attempt to find out how much I owed during the six months of amnesty, even speaking to SSP Lewis. But to be honest, I didn't follow through. However, one of my sons called up this information on the computer so easily I was surprised.

It showed that I owed three traffic tickets - all from 2004. I know that this record must be faulty, as I am 'sure' I had paid them. More important, I am positive that I had two or three unpaid tickets subsequently. Could it be that I was perfect in my driving or perfect in paying all my tickets from 2004 to September 2010? I doubt it. Where were they? Anyway, I paid the $15,500 required. After all my effort, I had to chuckle to myself when it was suggested that the statute of limitation had expired on them and perhaps I didn't have to pay any at all.

My article ended, "I predict that this amnesty would produce many millions for the government coffers."

I was right. A report by Daraine Luton, published January 3, 2013 in The Gleaner, stated, "The Ministry of National Security yesterday said almost $340 million was collected from the amnesty, approximately 60 per cent of which was earned on the last day."

While it fell short of the $2 billion that was anticipated, I think it is fair to say that more of the driving public was willing to pay but for the defects in the computer records.

I would like to take this opportunity to add my voice in requesting another period of amnesty given the difficulty/inaccuracy experienced by most.

SECOND-HAND DITHERING

In 'Second-hand smoke and Government's dithering', published February 19, 2012, I wrote about successive governments' dithering in implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), particularly in legislating a smoke-free environment by curbing smoking in public places.

This convention was signed by the GOJ on October 5, 2005.

That means more than 89 months or 381 weeks or 2,664 days have passed since. And counting ... . How much longer, Minister Ferguson, how much longer?

To quote from my said article:

It is similarly ironic that in May 2011, the then opposition spokesman on health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, expressed disappointment with the Jamaican Government's delay in implementing a ban on smoking in public areas.

Ferguson said it was unacceptable for Jamaica to be a signatory to the FCTC since 2005, and still be in breach of its obligations under the treaty.

How much longer?

Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and e_rider69@hotmail.com.


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