Stiff penalties alone won’t stop drink driving, say experts

Police test the blood alcohol level of a driver at a roadblock in Kuala Lumpur. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two road safety experts have welcomed Putrajaya’s proposal to legislate stiffer penalties for drink driving but called for additional measures to address the problem.

Law Teik Hua of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Road Safety Research Centre and road safety consultant Karen Goonting told FMT they believed there was a need to educate drinkers.

Law, noting that most drink driving offenders caught so far were Chinese, called for an approach that targets the community.

He said the Chinese media appeared to be “very quiet” on the issue, unlike the English and Malay media. “So the message, including any advice dispensed, does not reach the community. If we want to solve the problem, we cannot educate just drivers, but the community as well.”

Law said he was confident that the Chinese community could be “re-educated” on their drinking culture, citing the success of a campaign against the serving of shark’s fin soup at wedding banquets.

“It was a must during the old days, but after years of reports on how harmful the delicacy is for the species, we have changed our mindset,” he said. “Why don’t we try the same method to curb excessive drinking at such occasions?”

He also suggested that pub operators collaborate with e-hailing services to ensure their patrons do not drive home drunk.

He proposed that a discount on beverages be given if a patron decides to take a ride with such services.

Goonting, a former research fellow at the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research, called for a campaign to make drink driving unfashionable.

However, she acknowledged that it would take at least a generation “or 20 to 25 years” for such an educational effort to take effect.

She said decisions made to address the problem should be based on research and not on the impulse to “play to the gallery” or to score political points.

“Then we will be able to reach the targeted audience when it comes to drawing up policies.”

She alleged that Malaysia had “hardly scratched the surface” in conducting such studies.

Citing research done abroad, she spoke of predictors to the discouragement of drink driving, saying these included arrest and punishment and association with people who are against drink driving.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said a mandatory fine for those found guilty of reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was among the proposals to be included in amendments to the Road Transport Act.

It is proposed that offenders be fined between RM20,000 and RM100,000 for first offences and RM150,000 for subsequent offences.

It is also proposed that those causing death in an accident resulting from drink driving be jailed for 15 years for first offences and 20 years for subsequent offences.

Another proposal is to increase the duration of driving licence suspension from 10 to 20 years.

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