Certainly not the right spirit!

The issue of drunk driving should be given serious attention regardless of whether they cause injuries and fatalities

pic by BERNAMA

WHENEVER anyone says “Don’t worry! I can handle it” after guzzling several bottles of beer, chances are, he can’t.

If you happen to be next to such a person right before closing time — at the point when everyone gets emotional and starts hugging each other, or professing love to one another — the most advisable thing that you could do is to take away his car keys and get a Grab driver to send him home.

Under the influence of alcohol, the most innocent of characters can turn into the sexiest seductress, while the meekest of geeks might just turn out to have the pottiest mouth ever.

The shyest person you know could be on the dance floor the whole night gyrating to the latest beats he might not even be familiar with and yes, your straight-as-an-arrow friends could easily turn into deadly weapons that could kill on the road.

So yes, please take their car keys away from them and get others (who are not drinking) to drive them home.

In the last few months, the number of deaths due to drunk driving is astoundingly high. Yesterday, a drunk driver, who rammed his vehicle into and killed a Foodpanda rider along the Sultan Iskandar Highway (Lebuhraya Mahameru), was charged at the Magistrate’s Court.

Khor Yong Zhang, 21, is alleged to have driven under the influence of alcohol. That resulted in him being unable to control his Nissan Grand Livina and ramming Mohamed Zaili Mohamed.

A video of the accused driving with a motorcycle still stuck under his car is still making its round on the Internet. Apparently, Mohamed Zaili, who was also a contract worker, was returning to his home after sending food to his wife to be sold.

After being rammed by the car, Mohamed Zaili was thrown to the road shoulder, but his motorcycle was caught under the vehicle and was dragged for about 2km from the crash site.

The driver — a car accessories shop worker — was not even aware that he was dragging a motorbike until members of the public intervened.

In Kuantan, a fish wholesaler was charged in the Magistrate’s Court for ramming into another car when he was driving against the traffic flow on Jalan Pintasan Kuantan last week.

The accident was recorded and shown to the world as well. The accused was charged with committing the offence near a Petronas station on Jalan Pintasan Kuantan at 9.20pm on May 25, according to Section 302 of the Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Tongues are still wagging about the policeman who was killed after he was hit by a vehicle driven by a suspected drunk man while manning the Covid-19 roadblock at the Kajang South Toll Plaza at the Kajang-Seremban Expressway early last month.

A couple of days before Hari Raya, a man driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle crashed into a crowd at a hawkers’ centre in Pekan Bukit Sentosa, Hulu Selangor. The 32-year-old man, who was driving a Toyota Hilux, was purportedly drunk.

He went berserk and rammed his pick-up truck into five people at the hawkers’ centre. Among those injured were four men and a woman, aged between 40 and 50.

Two cars, two motorcycles and two canopies at the site were also damaged. The video is still making its round, while the suspect was charged in court last Friday.

For the uninitiated, police statistics revealed that there were 21 road crashes involving drunk drivers over the last five months. Of the incidents, eight victims lost their lives.

It was also reported that almost 7,000 fatal road accidents were recorded in the country each year and the rate of fatal road accidents in Malaysia is among the highest in the world.

Since a significant number of road deaths in Malaysia were caused by drunk driving, it is only logical that the penalties reflect the gravity of the offence.

There’s no absolute safe level of alcohol consumption for competent driving. Even after a few drinks, your driving ability is affected. Your chance of causing an accident gets higher as the level of alcohol concentration in your blood increases.

According to a study done by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research in 2012, about 23.3% of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for alcohol and a drunk driver is 13 times more likely to cause an accident.

Research also suggested that at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, the risk of being involved in a traffic crash is double that of a person who has not been drinking at all.

The legal BAC limit for drivers in all Malaysian states is below 0.08%. Be reminded as well that it is also an offence for a person to refuse to undergo a breathalyser test for either alcohol or drugs if requested by the police.

Perhaps, we could learn from other countries. For instance, in Argentina, it is a criminal offence to drive if one’s level of alcohol is 0.03% or greater at local/municipal jurisdiction and stopped by a municipal police force, and 0.04% if driving on a route or highway and stopped by a state highway patrol, Argentina Federal Police or Argentina Gendarmerie.

At the Cordoba State highways and routes, a zero-tolerance policy is enforced by the Cordoba State Highway Patrol and it is an offence to drive with an alcohol level greater than 0.00%.

As for Australia, it is a criminal offence to drive under the influence of alcohol if one’s level of alcohol is 0.05% or greater (full licence) or if one’s level of alcohol is greater than 0.00% (learner/provisional). You should know, Australian police utilise random breath-testing stations and any police vehicle can pull over any vehicle at any time to conduct a random breath or drug test.

People found to have excessive alcohol or any banned substances are taken to either a police station or a random breath-testing station for further analysis. Those over 0.08% will receive an automatic disqualification of their licence and must appear in court.

Back at home, a person who drives “without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road” is considered guilty of an offence, as stated by Section 43 of the Road Transport Act 1987.

According to this section, drunk driving is punishable and if offenders are found guilty, they can expect to pay a fine of up to RM10,000 and a maximum period of imprisonment of 12 months.

Too puny, maybe?

The Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) recently stated its support for the proposed amendment that seeks to impose stiffer penalties against drunk drivers.

MCPF senior vice chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said in a recent report that such a move should not be delayed any longer to ensure future offenders are subjected to heavier punishment.

He said the issue of drunk driving should be given serious attention for all cases of driving under the influence, regardless of whether they cause injuries and fatalities.

“It is time the laws are reviewed and amended to suit present situations. Existing penalties do not seem to deter some who continue to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol,” he said in a statement recently.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin agreed that there’s a need to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333) so that heavier penalties can be meted out to those driving under the influence.

Well, let’s hope it happens soon and no more lives are lost due to the wilful ignorance of few.

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor at The Malaysian Reserve.