Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Drinking and driving

Canada and New Zealand are very similar in many different ways. They are both extraordinarily beautiful countries, polite and helpful people, each are a part of the monarchy, both countries have great reputations and are respected around the world. Obviously there are differences between the two such as some of the vocabulary kiwi's use, they drive on the other side of the road, don't find it necessary to wear shoes and other small intricacies. There is one difference that has stood out since the first day I got to New Zealand and it is somewhat controversial.

Let's say it is Saturday night and you are going out downtown with a group of your friends. You've eaten dinner, showered, dressed up for a big night out and start drinking. Maybe play some beer pong or flip cup, listen to some music and be glad you aren't at work. In Canada, you might call a cab or a sober driver would drive, you down your last drink, have a loud chat with the cab driver/your friend and get dropped off at your destination. Closing time is 2 am so maybe you get home around 3 and probably had a great night.

In New Zealand, the night would progress pretty close to the night in Canada. In Canada, we might pre-drink to hockey, they pre-drink to rugby. They also have a rule with your friends that if you spill a drink on the table you suck it up with your mouth. Table suck. If you spill it on the floor, well that's a floor suck. Savages. Then it is time to get into the car. While in Canada you would finish your drink because it is illegal to have open alcohol in a vehicle, in New Zealand all of your friends could be drinking as well. Which I view as a positive because it isn't hurting anyone and makes the trip more fun. But, New Zealand takes it to another level. Not only can the driver's friends be drinking, the driver as well can have a beer or two as long as he or she isn't over the legal limit. This would be unheard of in Canada. Cab drivers will make you pour out your drink before getting in. Here, you could give him one as a tip.

So instead of grabbing a coffee from Tim Horton's before a long trip, you can crack open a Heineken, take a drink in front of a police car, get pulled over and not get in trouble. On the one hand, it isn't that different from being allowed to consume a few drinks before driving as long as you aren't over a certain limit. On the other hand, it might encourage someone to drink while driving who eventually becomes impaired and gets into an accident. Really not sure how this is still a law, many people here aren't aware that it is in fact legal and it isn't publicized that much. The best policy to avoid confusion would just to have a zero drinking and driving policy. Simple and to the point. But maybe I'm wrong. I looked at stats to see if there was a major difference between drinking and driving stats between the two countries but the sheer number of Canadian to New Zealander's is so big that it is hard to compare. This is what I found:

Assistant Commissioner Road Policing Dave Cliff highlighted Ministry of Transport figures that showed drinking and driving killed 1463 people and injured 24,789 others in road crashes between 2000 and 2011.

Police estimate that each day in New Zealand, approximately 5,923 compulsory breath tests and 2,743 mobile breath tests are undertaken and 100 people are charged with drink driving (New Zealand Police, 2010) - See more at: http://www.alcohol.org.nz/research-resources/nz-statistics/road-traffic-crashes-and-deaths#.dpuf

In 2008, driver alcohol/drugs was a contributing factor in 103 fatal crashes, 441 serious injury crashes and 1156 minor crashes.
These crashes resulted in 119 deaths, 582 serious injuries and 1726 minor injuries.
- See more at: http://www.alcohol.org.nz/research-resources/nz-statistics/road-traffic-crashes-and-deaths#.dpuf

Figures show that during the past two years a total of 9703 teenagers were found guilty of drink driving in New Zealand. Fifteen teens have been convicted at least six times in that period

In 2010, it was estimated that 2,541 individuals were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada. MADD Canada estimates that at a minimum 1,082 of these fatalities were impairment-related.


To sum up, don't drink and drive. It's fairly simple. And to add the Thailand perspective, they do have road blocks set up to stop drinking and driving. However, in my town, 95% of the time when I would drive through one of those stops, they would see that I was white, couldn't speak English so they would just smile and let me through. Probably not the best way to enforce the law.

A designated driver helps you party another day.

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