NDANGWA MWITTAH, Livingstone
THE thing about drinking alcohol is that it can almost be likened to gambling. You can go out on a drinking night out and not know where you will end up the next day.
It could work out good or it could be disastrous, like the throw of a dice.
Lazarous Siantumbo of Livingstone can at least attest to this. He cannot agree more with the statement because he can definitely relate to it.
The bed he woke up from one Saturday morning earlier this year, was not the one he woke up from on Sunday.
In fact, he never returned to his home that particular night because he ended up sleeping behind bars, in a police cell.
Perhaps you could wonder, “what for?”
Well, Lazarous who was driving a Toyota vehicle had his car impounded, driving licence confiscated and himself detained for driving under the influence of alcohol.
He was pulled over by Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) officers who on that fateful day, in a joint operation with the Zambia Police Service traffic officers had mounted a checkpoint to randomly check the adherence and compliance to road traffic rules and regulations.
Among the issues that the officers were checking was driving licences, motor vehicle fitness certificates and also the breath alcohol concentration, an offence that Lazarous and 30 other drivers were arrested and had their vehicles impounded for.
And it having been a Saturday, it was evidently assured that it was going to be a field day for the road traffic inspectors and the traffic officers.
Lazarous’ reading was 0.99mg, almost three times above the permissible limit of 0.38mg.
“Please bwana [officer]; I am begging you to release me. I won’t do it again,” he begged RTSA head of public relations Frederick Mubanga.
But Mr Mubanga and the other officers who included the agency’s deputy director for road safety Gladwell Banda were not in any compromising mood.
“We are not stopping people from drinking. All we want is to have a cadre of responsible drivers on the roads,” he says.
Mr Mubanga further adds: “If you are going to drink, you either drink within the permissible limit or if that’s not the case, drink your brains out and find someone else to take you home.”
He says the agency aims to reduce the number of road accidents by 50 percent by the year 2020.
“That is why we have partnered with Zambian Breweries to see how best we can work together to scale up this exercise so that we have safer roads. Government has invested so much money on these roads and we have felt the need to have safer drivers on them, too,” he says.
Mr Mubanga hopes the partnership between the agency and Zambian Breweries further reduces the number of road accidents.
“Last year, we recorded a reduction and we want to build on it and reduce the numbers even further,” he says.
“We won’t be announcing where next we go. All drivers with a tendency of driving under the influence of alcohol will be in for a surprise,” Mr Mubanga adds.
From Livingstone, their next stop was Ndola.
There, too, similar check points were mounted and this time around, officers from the Zambian Breweries Ndola plant were part of it.
“We have a dream to create a better world and that can only be achieved with a safe and healthy environment and community,” Zambian Breweries’ corporate affairs director Ezekiel Sekele said.
He added, “The enforcement exercises are a way to go as we continue to get the message across on responsible drinking and the dangers of drinking and driving to our consumers and the community. At Zambian Breweries, we think it’s our responsibility not only to share that message with everybody, but also to back the government and institutions such as the RTSA through such initiatives as the road safety campaign.”
Zambian Breweries signed a memorandum of understanding with RTSA in 2016 aimed at curbing drink driving and ensuring safety on the roads with a view to cutting the number of road accidents.
The company, together with the agency, hopes to see a new Zambia, where motorists and other road users begin to accept that alcohol abuse and drink-driving are socially unacceptable.
With its responsible drinking and don’t drink and drive campaigns in force, consumers are encouraged to be accountable and responsible for the way in which they consume alcohol.
The path to responsible drinking and to never drink and drive is a key message the brewing company has dedicated to spread in 2018.
Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba has been advocating the stiffening of penalties meted on motorists found guilty of drink-driving.
Mr Mushimba said the current K2, 500 fine is not working as a deterring factor to would-be offenders.
“The fine that is given to an offender found drink-driving is not helping in terms of deterring people from drinking and driving because it is so lenient,” he said at the 10 Miles checkpoint in Mazabuka recently.
He feels the traffic offence of drink-driving should go with deterrent penalties such as a minimum of six months to one year imprisonment.
Addressing journalists when Zambian Breweries donated six breathalyzers and a K100, 000 cheque to the agency in December last year, RTSA director and chief executive officer Zindaba Soko said drink-driving is one of the risk factors that contribute to road accidents in Zambia.
He said that when one was driving under the influence of alcohol, they were prone to either miscalculate distances when overtaking or doze off.
He stressed that the offence of drinking and driving has far-reaching implications in that the offender risks his own life, lives of passengers and other road users.
“The agency has identified drink driving as one of the risk factors that contribute to road crashes on our roads. We are pleased that Zambian Breweries, our partner, has provided us with breathalysers that will be used in detecting how much alcohol one may have consumed while driving. This will be done in our routine operations,” he noted.
NDANGWA MWITTAH, Livingstone