Drink Driving to an Early Grave

It was brought to my attention by our driving instructor back in 2010 that Ethiopia ranks at the top of the World’s Car Accidents index. It makes me wonder why we are getting a reputation for negative things, when we have so much that should be our nation’s pride. That being said, it doesn’t surprise me one bit to see that these numbers haven’t gone down since that lesson six years ago. The sight of multiple crashed cars in the city seems to be getting more and more frequent.

If you were to step out of your home on a Sunday or Monday morning and take a stroll around the most popular night club areas of Addis, you are likely to witness gruesome crashes that do not give any hope of survival to anyone involved. Isn’t it ironic that are only reaction is to question how drunk the driver might have been or express how sad it is for those involved and nothing more? Think about it, why are we not outraged that the driver was driving drunk in the first place? Should there not be a different outcome for drink driving other than human fatalities.

A friend was telling me what happened to her a few weeks ago on her way home from an event. It was near the presidential palace; a car had jolted out of nowhere and swerved, fortunate not to hit them, and crashed into a pole.

As they rushed to see if the driver was still alive, they were surprised to see him drunk, unconsciously trying to stand and attempt to keep driving while his bone was poking out of his knee. At that moment, the Federal Security told them to move him without much care about his state of consciousness; all that mattered was that his life or death situation didn’t interfere with his duties. The injured driver was finally sent to a hospital in a taxi cab, after the last person he had called on his phone was contacted. But should this be a normal sight in today’s modern Addis Abeba?

Should we be a nation that hurries to assist once the accidents have happened and lives are lost? Or should we rather be one that prevents these accidents from occurring to begin with and preserves lives? Who should be responsible for each drunken accident that happens in town? The bartender, the waiter, the friends, the guard allowing the driver to get in the car or the driver?

While we ponder the responsibility each of us should account for, let’s take a moment to appreciate the initiative of the breathalysers now being implemented – essential measures of prevention. It makes me wonder though whether the use of these breathalysers is more efficient during the day or late at night. I have personally never seen many traffic police out and about during the night – at least not as many as there are during the day; which makes me wonder if the breathalysers will be efficient tools in preventing accidents. Understanding the lack of implementation of laws persecuting Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol in Ethiopia, in comparison to the West, wouldn’t it be best to hold ourselves accountable as the responsible citizens that we are? Shouldn’t we all make sure that no drunk individual takes to the wheel of a car?

The highlight of that story for me was finding out that the aforementioned injured individual was actually a Diaspora. I am not saying that all Diasporas drink and drive and that Ethiopians don’t drink and drive – on the contrary. It amazed me that this specific individual felt that the rules he so willingly abides by in his country of residence can be spit on in his home country. Should discipline and abiding the law vary depending on the location of the individual? As if we can be outlaws in one country and law abiding citizens in another?

A week ago, it was announced that no deaths had been accounted for during the night, and though it is great news, it is quite alarming that it has now become rare not to account deaths rather than the other way around. I understand that Ethiopia has a large population, but even the death of one person because of drink driving is very sad. What part can each of us play?

By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled “poetic saturdays” - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be contacted at poeticsaturdays@gmail.Com

Published on Aug 16,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 850]



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