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Sobering up!

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Police statistics show that more Jamaicans are not drinking and driving

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

Hundreds of breathalyser tests performed by the police during the first four months of this year have revealed that an overwhelming majority of Jamaicans are heeding the warning not to drink and drive.

Data provided by head of the police traffic division, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, showed that only 18 persons or four per cent of the 446 drivers tested between January 1 and April 14 exceeded the legally allowed threshold of 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

An impressive 428 motorists tested negative.

"The overwhelming majority of persons checked are not drinking. That's very good. The stats say so," Lewis told The Sunday Gleaner.

Lewis explained that the bulk of the breath tests were conducted in proximity to places of entertainment or on persons deemed to be coming from parties during the hours of midnight to 8 a.m.

"When you have stage shows (and parties), after the shows are over we target that area where we do random checks of patrons. We also patrol the New Kingston and Trafalgar areas," explained Lewis.

He also revealed that the men and women under his charge perform "a lot of breath tests" on drivers of public-passenger vehicles.

Lewis believes the increased vigilance of the cops in tandem with the 'Drink Responsibly' and 'Designated Driver' advertising campaigns are to be credited for the impressive figures.

"My duty, our duty is to ensure that if you drink you don't drive and if you drive you don't drink," said Lewis. "You can't go drink and drunk and kill off people," he added.

excellent outcome

Marguerite Cremin, head of corporate relations at Red Stripe Jamaica, was encouraged with the police statistics.

"I am very happy. I think it is an excellent outcome," she said.

Cremin told our news team that the figures revealed an excellent return on the millions of dollars that liquor companies pour into their respective 'Drink Responsibly' advertising campaigns.

She revealed that Red Stripe pumps three per cent of its total annual advertising budget into its responsible drinking campaign. "We are very committed to getting the message out," said Cremin.

The Red Stripe executive also pointed out that Jamaicans have a history of not being reckless drinkers because the island boasts "one of the lowest per capita consumption of alcohol in the world".

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2011 global status report on alcohol and health, Jamaica's adult per capita consumption of alcohol is 5.00, measured in pure litres of alcohol.

Trinidad and Tobago's adult per capita consumption was 6.28 and Barbados' per capita consumption was 6.91.

In the United Kingdom (UK), adult per capita consumption of alcohol is 13.37, Ireland 14.41 and the United States recorded 9.44.

The WHO explained that total adult per capita alcohol consumption is measured using persons 15 years and over.

encouraging news

In the meantime, Greta Bogues, general manager of the corporate affairs division at J Wray & Nephew Limited, also welcomed the data from the police.

"This is very encouraging news and has really been a result of the collective efforts of a number of groupings, including the police, National Road Safety Council and the alcoholic beverage industry."

Bogues explained that J Wray & Nephew ensures that all its product advertising state 'Drink Responsibly' and that you must be over 18 years old.

"We have also requested all our event partners who we work with to ensure that detox bars and water stations are set up at events ... and these are monitored."

In addition, Bogues noted that identifying "a designated driver when spending time with friends is another important component of the programme".

Lewis explained that when a vehicle is stopped during one of these operations, the cops perform other anti-crime checks before checking the vehicle documents and performing the breath test on the driver.

He revealed that the initial breath test is done with a contraption known as SD5 (screening device).

The driver is instructed to blow into the device and if the reading shows an elevated level of alcohol consumption, the driver is taken to the nearest designated testing centre where a breathalyser test is done to ascertain if the driver exceeded the legal alcohol limit.

While the results are largely positive, Lewis pointed out that some of the bad results are very scary.

"We have arrested people with 102 micrograms (of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath). The driver was completely drunk. The man was almost a time bomb. He was not only a danger to himself but to other road users and pedestrians," said Lewis.

Lewis reminded motorists that the fine for drunk driving is $10,000 with a six-month suspension of their driver's licence.

tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com