Drinking and driving

| 17/11/2010

Recently an acquaintance of mine pled guilty to DUI after driving into somebody. I do not know the details regarding what happened or whether the victim survived but what I do know is that she was over the legal alcohol limit while in control of her vehicle and that she hit an innocent pedestrian.

I was interested to see what comments she may have made relating to this incident on her Facebook page and was surprised to find a jolly and upbeat commentary ofher life including parties she has held recently and no mention of this terrible incident. There were also multiple messages from people telling her how wonderful she is and how they were all thinking of her. Now I know she must be going through a difficult time and be frightened for her future and hopefully remorseful of her actions. I understand that she may have been putting on a brave face – but I felt that some recognition of what happened – even a heartfelt apology to the victim would have been more appropriate. It is nice that her friends offer support; perhaps I am harsh but I cannot bring myself to muster much sympathy for anyone who has caused an accident because they drove a vehicle drunk.

I am tired of hearing every other week of single car accidents at night here in Cayman, where I have to assume the majority of them were caused by a driver unable to control their vehicle or react in a timely manner because they were under the influence of something. I shudder as I recall a dinner conversation with some girlfriends – 5 to be exact – and the subject got onto drink driving and every one of them laughed as they told stories about their narrow escapes from the law when they had been driving drunk or how “if you just try to stay between the lines you will be OK”. I was the only person at that table who not only doesn’t drive after drinking but views it totally unacceptable to risk other people’s lives by taking such frivolous risks.

I have been on the island for 7 years and am very aware that it is basically socially acceptable here to drive whilst over the limit. I have even spoken to people who say that when they lived in their home countries they never drove when drunk and have only started to here because everyone is so relaxed about it.

As far as I am concerned, no amount of alcohol when driving is safe. Those people who think that they can gauge their own sobriety as the night progresses should surely know that as they get increasingly drunk they will also believe that they are capable of anything and are less able to be a good judge of their own capabilities. How can anyone be such a fool as to think that alcohol does not affect them or that “it will never happen to them”? How can people, not even for one minute, imagine the consequences of an accident caused by their own inebriation or the devastating effect it would have on the lives of the innocent? I for one know that I could never forgive myself if I were to hurt another person or, worse, deprive a family of a loved one due to my own stupidity. The guilt would eat me alive.

I know I am at risk of sounding holier than thou – so be it. I simply want to put a message out there that driving under the influence is not acceptable. In fact it is utterly irresponsible. It is easy not to drink drive – set a limit on only one drink, or better still no alcohol … if you have more, take a cab. And no, getting into another car being driven by someone drunk does not make it any better. Please do not condone this behaviour – let people know that it is simply not OK. We cannot risk other people’s lives, for what? A quicker journey home and a few dollars saved. It simply isn’t worth it.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Taxi drivers on this island have blood on their hands! Get a meter in the vehicle, stopping ripping us off… these are the most expensive taxis in the world.

  2. Frank says:

    Another way to help this is LOWER TAXI PRICES! Everytime i get a cab i feel like I am getting screwed over big time. Myself and 3 friends got a cab to WB from The Whalf after a night of drinking and the cab driver tried to charge us $70!! That is absolutely ridiculous! Also answering to "Thu, 11/18/2010 – 16:00." – It is not the resposibility of any bartender to control the amount somebody consumes before they get behind a wheel..how are they supposed to know who is driving and who isnt. They are paid to serve patrons and help make an enjoyable night not to babysit people who are incapable of handling their alcohol or decide to drive home drunk after a night out.  

    • Pauly Cicero says:

      I agree with the taxi fare comment but absolutely not with the bartender comment. 

    • Anonymous says:

      "It is not the resposibility of any bartender to control the amount somebody consumes before they get behind a wheel..how are they supposed to know who is driving and who isnt. "

      Unless the laws have chnaged lately, it is a bartender’s responsibility to not serve anyone who is drunk.  If the bartender is found to have served a person drunk and they drive and someone get killed, the bartender can be held responsible.

      • Judge Dredd says:

        Made up law no. 137?  In Canada maybe. In Australia definitely no.  In Cayman never.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Drunk driving is a problem everywhere and in the US was dealt with by a slap on the wrist until an organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created by the mother of a drunk driver victim. This organization has been the driving force behind taking drunk driving seriously in the US.

    Now no judge will consider letting anyone off on a drunk driving charge because it would be the end of their judicial career. Now it is common for repeat drunk drivers to go to prison and this is without having killed anyone.

    It would benefit Cayman if a M.A.D.D. chapter was organized here, God knows there are enough victims and then let the drunk drivers beware.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In my opinion, people drink and drive because when we hear or read about somebody having been arrested for drunk driving, we all envision what we see on TV – somebody who is barely comprehensible, stumbles all over the place and can not walk a straight line. Surely, this is not us!

    Well, we all need to realize and accept that driving under the influence begins once you had more than one drink………………

  5. Tim Ridley says:

    This viewpoint serves as very useful highlight of the issue of personal injuries. I do not know what happened to the "innocent pedestrian" in terms of injury and compensation/damages. But the public policy issue exists nevertheless.

    We should all be aware that, if the proposed legislation to  cap personal injury non economic loss damages to say $500,000 is enacted, this could directly and adversely affect the compensation that could be recovered by an innocent victim of a DUI.

    Is this really sensible or fair? If you think it is, ponder on how you might feel if you were unfortunately rammed or run down on the road and suffered excruciating back/whiplash pain as a result. You can collect for the medical bills and the loss of earnings (and good luck if what you get actually covers the full cost and loss), but hard luck on anything more for the permanent and long term pain and discomfort…you can get nothing more than $500,000.

    The members of the medical profession, the insurance industry and other proponents of the cap should think long and hard about what this could mean to them and their families if such an accident were to happen to them. And then ponder whether lobbying for the cap is in the public interest.

    • Kung Fu Iguana says:

      Let the doctors buy proper insurance cover.  We can legislate to allow Shetty to exclude liability for non-residents.  If the visitors want to sign away their protection that is their choice.  I do not want my future, or my childrens’ future  risked against our will by a sidewind of this proposal.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe if the crime fit the punishment, people would pay attention. I recently read someone was sentenced 15 months for killings someone while under the influence (Aside from the guilt for the rest of your life, it is not sufficient). This is hardly a slap on the wrist. Cayman needs to move forward with real inhibitors to stop this issue.

    I lived on the island for six years and remember leaving bars / restaurants early to avoid any chance of being on the road when they let out. In addition, I would on purpose avoid the bypasses and other main stretches.

    I also think Cayman needs to bring laws forward where those who serve the alcohol are also held responsible (if there is already a law in place, I have never heard of anyone being charged). Bartenders can tell when someone has had too much to drink. They are basically handing someone a loaded gun and not watching what the person is doing with it. I realize this is a hard thing to police, however many other countries have implemented this type of law to much success.  

    In the end, I think everyone who drinks (myself included) needs to have a plan in place prior to leaving ones house to ensure the safety of the public.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am very surprised to read that the young lady left her Facebook account active….I am a friend of hers and she deleted it almost the instant she got out of the hospital….the shame was too much to bear.

    She also had to be supervied 24/7 as her family and friends thought she was suicidal.

    So before you judge her, please realize that she was also going thru great guilt and she did not take this lightly.

    She took full responsibilitiy for her actions and is now seving prison time. I dont think she, or her family will ever be the same again. I know that it is nothing compared to the person that lost her life…but she will never be that same fun loving person again!

    • Sarah Graham says:

      Thank-you for your post…..actually the story I refer to was not even on this island – but it could be the same couldn’t it?  It is so common.

      I do think it is a tragedy – each and every example of this…not only for the victim and their friends and family but also it is a tragedy for the person who made that fateful and very wrong choice.  I hope she becomes proactive in advocating sober driving to everyone and anyone who will listen….and even those who won’t, for the rest of her life.

    • Alan Nivia says:

      "fun loving" = "selfish threat to law abiding people".


    • wizards sleeve says:

      Hmm, interesting comments. I was involved with the arrest of a certain local attourney XXX who, while drunk, hit another driver head on and she (the drunk one) was not remorseful at all, in fact she absconded from hospital to avoid a breath test, attempted to buy off the victim, claimed she had no recollection of theevents, and the file was deemed ‘not in the public interest’ to prosecute, by, yes, you guessed it, the legal department.

      Cayman, your ‘justice’ system is a joke.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There are the runk drivers that are an accident waiting to happen that scare me. The "power drinkers" to whom drunken foolish behavior is a regular occurance. They usually gravitate to like minded drnkers who will accept and support such antisocial behavior.

    Police road blocks are useful to identify problem drunk drivers and as it is a crime to drive drunk then the legal system can take over. If a person is unable to control their drinking then Alcoholics Anonymous in the Cayman Islands is an available option.

  9. Joanna Johnson says:

    Sarah wrote a very interesting piece and one that everyone should read and re-read again and again until it is firmly instilled that driving after drinking is wrong.

    I lived in Cayman recently and I got stopped (and arrested and charged and taken to court) for driving drunk. I had not hit anybody, I had not gotten into an accident, it was a pure twist of fate that led the police to stop me that night. I lost my license and I had to live with the shame. I also had to sit down and think of what might have been, and I am forever thankful that I did not hurt or kill anyone.

    I would never have done this in my home country – it is not that people move to Cayman and pick up bad habits – it is just that it IS socially acceptable to a lot of people and they take the chance.

    I hope you all do please value your own lives and those of others this coming "party" season and just try to think before you get behind the wheel. It is not worth it. Life means more than happy hour.


    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe it was "socially acceptable" in the crowd you ran with Joanna, but it is not "socially acceptable" among my associates.  

  10. BSA says:

    Good for you Sarah, for stating your thoughts on driving while under the influence of alcohol.  It is a very stupid thing to do, no matter what the excuse is for doing so.  People become quite disgruntled if someone points out that they ‘may’ have had a bit too much to drink and shouldn’t attempt to drive themselves or anyone else home.  Some people think they are immune to getting caught, or are willing to take the risk not only of their own lives, but those of unsuspecting people walking, cycling or driving with not a care for the damage they could cause to the other people. Is it so very difficult to find one of their friends and see if they would be willing to be a designated driver for an evening, or make arrangments to have someone pick them up if they over do it.  Taxis may be expensive here, but it really would only total a couple of drinks, which no one seems to have a problem forking over.  No one’s life is worth losing due to someone else’s ego, carelessness or just plain stupidity.   No one’s, period!  I think that is where personal responsibility comes into play, are you really an adult or are you still a child pretending to be an adult.  Are you teaching your kids to do as I say but not as I do? 

  11. Tom McCallum says:

    I agree with the writer, and two quick points to bolster her arguments :

    1 : No matter the price of taxis, it is simple. If you take your car, don’t drink. No excuse, none whatsoever !

    2 : I have lived in Cayman for 21 years now and was almost immediately struck by the same phenomenon when I move here, that many people take drink driving very lightly. However, to the poster who took that as an attack on Caymanians, my own read on that is that it was the expats coming to live here who themselves developed the attitude, catching it (most likely) from others they got to know whose mindset towards alcohol and driving. Not an "expat/caymanian" thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s a difference between an explanation and an excuse.  Nobody said the high cost of taxis was a valid excuse, but the fact is that it promotes temptation evidently to the point that many people succumb.  Is it wrong?  Of course.  Am I encouraging it or excusing it?  No.

      We can either wish upon a star that people would do the right thing or we can take practical steps to minimize it by changing the risk/reward calculus in drink driving.  You can do that either by making it more costly to drink and drive, or making the alternatives less costly, preferably both.

      You cannot stop young people going out drinking and there are many people who cannot afford $50 for a round trip taxi ride home at night and back again in the morning.  The urge for these people to drink and socialize is stronger than the urge to be responsible.

      For many people, the best way to ensure they do not succumb to the temptation to drink and drive will be to stay home.  That’s the last thing the economy needs right now.

      I agree, liberalize the taxi system.  Right now the first and last thing a tourist experiences on the island is being ripped off by a taxi driver who wants to be paid $20 to go 3 miles in ten minutes.  I wouldn’t think this was any less of a rip off if I wasa millionaire so don’t excuse this by saying the kind of tourist we want can afford it.  I know plenty of rich people who count pennies.

      I agree expats are the worst culprits.

      • Anonymous says:

        great post…except for the last line……

        look up official stats of traffic accidents and you will see who are the worst drivers…..

        p.s. expats don’t get a thrill out of driving ‘blinged-up’, ‘blacked out’ 94 civic at 100mph down the wrong side of the road…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe what should really be considered is some type of bus service that runs late nite into certain districts with drop off points(not necessarily door to door service)? I agree taxis are very expensive in Cayman and makes you think twice before getting one at the end of the night. A bus service may be a great job for someone without one! Do a few runs…1 a.m, 1:30 a.m, 2 a.m, 2:30 a.m and 3a.m. heading to WB , Georgetown, Prospect or whatever. Charge $5 or under.


      • Anonymous says:

         Here, here!!!  If not a cheap bus system (I’d take it, so would others!!!) how about sober driving groups?  I would fill up my mini-van reserved for house guests and I’d sign up for a Saturday or Sunday midnight-2AM SOBER VOLUNTEER ROSTER….if I knew the following week, it was someone else’s turn.  

        The holiday season is particularly dangerous as many people are going to parties in places they are not used to, drinking more than usual, and socializing more. 

        It is almost impossible to get even friendly parents to carpool, so how can we organize holiday sober drivers?!?  


      • Anonymous says:

        SMB restaurants/bars proposed running their own shuttles and were shut down by Taxi lobby.  Time for more debate on this since it is a very good idea, not just for residents, but tourists as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        Even better the "weekend shuttle"  could pick you up at 10, 11 or 12 to head to the club and then leave the clubs at 1,2 or 3. Safe both ways. This could be a gold mine for someone with some business savy.

      • Anonymous says:

        great idea about the buses…but the gov will never bring it in because they put the livelyhood of parisitic taxi drivers over human life and public service….

        de-regulate the taxi industry now!…thye have ripped off locals and tourists for too long…..

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve suggested this before too.  It’d be nice to have a bus service run past 8 to the East, let alone late buses Fridays and Saturdays for people wanting to go out for a drink.  The only alternative to driving home is too expensive, so we all ended up stranded at home!

  12. Libertarian says:

    Agreed Totally!

  13. Anonymous says:

    there is no excuse for drink driving….however the lack of public transport and rip-off taxi service does not help….

    • Anonymous says:

      Residents: Most SMB restaurants and bars have free cards with dozen or so taxi numbers on the back – get one of those and put in your wallet or purse – or punch a dozen of those numbers into your cell, and search out and build relationships with the reliable people.  These are the cabbies that will already know where you live even when you can no longer speak Engrish.  Most will be pleased to give you their direct line and may stay out later if they know you’ll be calling them.  You can have alot more fun when you know that transport is solved, and knowing they will not rip off a bread and butter customer.

    • Anonymous says:

      you could always just not get drunk, yes? you could do that. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is a very timely message for the Christmas season and one that I will stop and think twice about if I have a bit too much to drink. I would absolutely hate to forever live with the guilt of taking another person’s life because of a selfish stupid act!!

    I will pay the exorbitant taxi rate anyday over taking a life which is irreplaceable!


    Thank you for the sobering reminder!!!




  15. anonymous says:

    Very well said Sarah, I completely agree.

    Every decision in life is a cost benefit analysis on some level.  To change behaviour you must change the cost/benefit.  There are a couple of easy ways to do this.

    First, you could increase police presence in key areas at key times.  All it takes is one office strolling round the parking lot at closing time to make people think twice next time. 

    Second, I believe Cayman is by far the most expensive place in the world to take a taxi.  Itis far more expensive than London or New York.  And that’s if you can find one.  You can’t even economise by sharing a taxi because Cayman is the only place on the planet where Taxis charge per occupant and/or per stop.

    There is no excuse for drink driving, but the extortionate cost of taxis on the island, and the lack of availability at key times, is a direct factor in the practice.  Both are caused by excessive control of the taxi licenses and the state sponsored pricing cartel.  The government should liberalise the taxi industry, allow competition, allow foreigners to obtain taxi licenses if they pass a test and keep their nose clean, and end the pricing controls which keep the price of taxis ridiculously high to line the pockets of the politically connected for sitting on their backside doing one of the easiest jobs known to man. 

    If you disagree and think driving a taxi is a difficult job or that taxi drivers are entitled to the price they charge, then you have nothing to fear from liberalising the market.

    No other profession is protected in this way. 


  16. Anonymous says:

    "I have been on the island for 7 years and am very aware that it is basically socially acceptable here to drive whilst over the limit. I have even spoken to people who say that when they lived in their home countries they never drove when drunk and have only started to here because everyone is so relaxed about it".

    Oh please! Blame it on Rio (Cayman)! Presumably those persons would have understood that it was an irresponsible, dangerous and illegal thing to do when they were in their home countries and would have brought that understanding with them; it would not have solely on the basis that their friends might disapprove. In the same way that Caymanians have their habits, people bring their habits with them; they don’t suddenly acquire bad habits because they are in Cayman.

    • Sarah Graham says:

      NO. Not blaming it on Cayman….I just happen to be here.  I know the same problem exists on my island of Bermuda….if I were living there, I would be posting the same message……in fact, even in the countries where drink driving is less prevalent, I would still send out the message because it happens in every country and if there is one person on the road under the influence….then that is one person too many.

      It is not acceptable anywhere, anytime. Simple.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for your clarification, and I agree with your sentiments.

        Perhaps I am a bit sensitive as we hear that kind of comment all too often: "Tom and Jane are getting divorced. It’s something about this place that causes people to get divorced. It must have the highest divorce rate in the world".  Never mind that Tom and Jane had had problems in their marriage and hoped to bring back romance into it by coming out to the tropics, but instead Tom’s roving eye got the better of him. 

        • anonymous says:

          By the time they arrived in the tropics, Tom was overly nauseated by Jane’s child-like antics.  Besides, he realized that blonds weren’t all that much fun after all.  Since he was in the Caribbean he decided to give the local flavour a try.  He remembered his ancient civilization Prof’s wise words "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".  And he lived happily ever after. 

        • Anonymous says:

          Are you kidding?  Jane was a nightmare.  She was completely intolerant and cold as ice.  Tom, you are a gentleman and a scholar.  Forget Jane and the horse she rode in on.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, I thought that last phrase would draw some responses. You are quite right of course that there are alternate reasons, but you take my point – its about the people in the relationship not the place.