Editorial | Zero tolerance for drunk driving

What will it take to make Nelson Mandela Bay roads safer for all our citizens? One thing is clear: the current system of traffic law enforcement is not up to scratch. Yesterday The Herald reported on the trial following the crash which killed university student Jamie Baartzes, with the court learning the blood test kit used on the driver was out of date. The fact that the test kit had expired may mean that a potentially guilty drunk driver gets off on a charge of driving under the influence. And, it has been two years since the tragedy, and Jamie’s family are justifiably sad and angry. Yesterday’s paper also carried news of another crash where the reading of blood alcohol from the implicated driver was way over the limit. Fortunately, this week’s suspect was taken to hospital to have blood drawn so if that initial test is invalid there is at least a safety net in place to confirm its findings.

The memory of a third devastating crash in January, when D F Malherbe High School matric pupil Paul Manyadzwa was killed in a head-on collision in Walmer, is also fresh in our minds. It remains to be seen whether the driver of the vehicle involved in the collision with the motorbike on which Manyadzwa was a passenger was intoxicated or not. While road deaths of victims of any age are tragic, both Baartzes and Manyadzwa were so young, on the cusp of their lives as adults, and their deaths are a heavy blow to their families. The point we want to make is that for far too long it has been easy to duck and dodge while driving under the influence in South Africa. It also is part of a wider disregard for the rules of the road that often horrifies visitors from more law-abiding countries (there are, for example, outstanding warrants of arrests for 36 000 drivers in this metro). In the face of crime, poverty and other socio-economic woes, it is easy to brush off as insignificant this blatant disregard for traffic laws. However, the authorities have not clamped down hard enough on drunks. There should be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, and now it is time to follow up and prosecute with the full force of the law.