When I was in high school, Xola, a child in my class, died because of beer. She was only fourteen and she had never touched alcohol in all her life, but I am convinced that alcohol was her cause of death.
Allow me to explain. Eight months earlier Xola was the happiest she had ever been. She had been a lonely only child, and then miraculously her mom fell pregnant at the age of forty and gave birth to a girl Faith. My friend was so happy. She talked about her baby sister always; she was smitten. She begged her mother to fetch her early from school one day after writing her cycle test so she could accompany them to the Faith’s six week check-up. Xola was convinced she that she needed to be there as a protective big sister when her little sweet baby got her first immunisation injection.
Her mother did not show up to the school though. My friend waited and waited. She waited some more even when school had ended for the day. She got the school to call her mother but the phone went unanswered. Her father came to fetch her much later, and he was quiet and had been crying.
Xola then knew that something huge was permanently wrong. She was afraid to ask, and was scared that her baby sister had choked on milk and died. But things were much worse. Her mother had been driving to the school when a car driven by a drunk nineteen-year-old had jumped a red robot and plunged into her mother’s car. She had been killed instantly, and the baby Faith was found in her car seat, her skull cracked open. Her hanging jaw still had the pacifier attached to it.
The funeral was so sad. There were two coffins – one big, and the other impossibly tiny. We were all shattered. Eight months later Xola, faced with an empty heart, collected every pill in her house and ended her life. The drunk teenage driver had effectively killed three people.
I am certain that the teenage drunk driver did not mean to kill, but in getting behind the wheel when drunk he set forth a series of events that dominoed into the loss of three lives. Anyone above the age of ten knows that drinking alcohol impairs driving ability, and it makes drivers speed and be reckless, while also slowing down motor functions. We need harsher penalties that deter people from downing “one for the road”, and turning a car nto a loaded weapon capable of causing great harm.
Alcohol is still advertised on television. It is glamorised. It always shows aspirant people sharing beers in exotic places, and seems to say that alcohol is all about good times, and bromance. But no one shows the drive home, the cars that crush skulls of six week old babies.
We need to ban alcohol adverts. I grew up at a time where there was tobacco advertising, and this was stopped. We need to do the same for alcohol. I am not suggesting that this will solve everything, and move everyone to stop drinking and driving, but we do not need to glamorise the consumption of alcohol in the way that adverts do. If the advertising ban leads to just one life being saved, then that will be a worthwhile victory.
And we certainly have a problem here. A research study conducted by The World Health Organisation in 2015 found that South Africa has the most number of drunk drivers in the world. We top the world with 58 % of drivers consuming alcohol before they drive.
Think of the time where all polony sales were banned because of listeriosis. There had been fewer than two hundred deaths. Now contrast that with the thousands of people that have died as a direct result of drunk drivers, and you will have to agree with me that something needs to be done. Let’s start with banning alcohol adverts. Or if not, then alcohol companies should be compelled to contribute a further 5% of their profits to the Road Accident Fund.
I am also glad that the government is raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. Alcohol abuse is rampant in our society. Township taverns sell to underage teens. Young people need to understand that it is possible to have a good time without being wasted.
Tell us: what do you think should be done to stop South Africa’s problem of drunk drivers?