30 Mar 2013

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Safe driving with JONAS AGWU

As I conclude the “one for the road” piece this week, permit me to sound like a Pastor or an Imam by asking fundamental questions: have you ever driven under the influence? It doesn’t matter whether you were involved in a crash or not. Or do you know of anyone who indulges in one for the road before going behind the wheels? By these questions, I am sure I am sounding like Christ in the minds of some of my readers who in John 8:3-11 gave a poser to the accusers of the lady who was accused of adultery. You might wonder why there was no straight forward response from the accusers even though from the eldest to the least, they quietly fizzled out without any response, leaving Jesus with the accused.

Like this classic case in the Bible which I am told is equally captured though differently in Suratul Nur, verse 5, 6 and 7 of the Holy Koran, the intent behind these posers is not to accuse anyone but to raise our consciousness to the culpability of every average motorist on the issue of driving under the influence and the need to remain a sober driver. For emphasis, let me state once again that Section 22 of the FRSC Act spells out a five thousand naira fine, two years imprisonment or both as punishment for driving under the influence. As you celebrate this season, What is your plan for this Easter? Do you intend to observe it soberly or to take just another one for the road? Expectedly, this Easter weekend rolls in another festivity that is usually marked by increased incidence of driving under the influence. If you are perpetual drunk driver or an accomplice, The Designated Driver campaign is one you must embrace holistically.
The terms “designated driver” and “designated driving” surfed from the net, refers to the selection of a person who remains sober as the responsible driver of a vehicle whilst others have been allowed to drink alcoholic beverages.  As a practical and ethical matter, a designated driver is a person who abstains from alcohol on a social occasion in order to drive his or her companions home safely as an alternative to driving under the influence. In order to encourage these arrangements, some bar, restaurant and nightclub proprietors will offer free or reduced-price non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers.
The designated driver concept was developed in Scandinavia over several decades beginning in the 1920s, leading to a formalized designated driver program in the 1980s.

This concept was imported to the United States on a large scale in 1988 through the Harvard Alcohol Project, an initiative by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication, led by Jay Winsten. With heavy involvement by television networks and Hollywood studios, the campaign popularized the concept through public service announcements, as well as the encouragement of drunk driving prevention messages and designated driver references in popular television programs, such as Cheers, L.A. Law, and The Cosby Show. The U.S. Department of Transportation used public affairs commercials with the phrase “friends don’t let friends drive drunk”

Interestingly, President Bill Clinton participated in the designated driver campaign throughout his Presidency, taping public service announcements each year at the request of the Harvard Alcohol Project. With the endorsement of a broad range of individuals and organizations, designated driving became a national movement, with “designated driver” becoming a common phrase. Based on several polls indicating an increase in designated driving practices since the start of the initiative, the campaign is credited as a contributing factor to the decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities between 1988 and 1994. Since 2005, the spirits company Diageo has used a similar concept in Brazil to discourage drunk driving. Called Piloto da Vez, the campaign was born with the sponsorship of McLaren. Juan Pablo Montoya, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton have participated in the campaign.

Although designated drivers are popular, groups often fail to use them properly. Often, there is a failure of those groups to designate the driver prior to making travel arrangements and arrive in separate vehicles. Even when a group does share a vehicle, it is not always the case that the designated driver remains sober. Failures to require driver abstinence or limitation of consumption is another problem. One study conducted at the Tijuana/San Diego border found that by asking groups intent on drinking to identify the designated driver prior to entering the bar district, the driver later returned with substantially lower BACs compared with the control groups.

Now that we are on the path to realize the Accra declaration of 2015 and United Nations decade of action on road safety in 2020, the essence of this detour is to bring to the front burner, the need for improved but collective efforts towards an all inclusive advocacy and consolidated funding on the designated driver campaign in Nigeria.

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Business

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