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Friday, December 04, 2009

Breathalyser For Carnival 2010

Trinidadians have always enjoyed a certain "freedom" when it comes to alcohol consumption in this country; no one checks your ID to see if you are of legal age when you go to a bar or club, you can walk into any public space with opened alcohol in your possession and many a motorist have been seen casually driving with  one hand on the steering wheel and a beer in the other.

 I guess this type of "free up" mentality is what makes the novelty of copious alcohol consumption without censure for Carnival so attractive to those who visit for the first time and are awed by the fact that they can drink themselves into a stupor at fete after fete, not to mention for the two days of the Carnival parade. It is being reported, however, that the "free up attitude" to getting drunk and driving is getting a massive spoke in the wheel as the breathalyser will be implemented in test stages by Christmas Eve and in full by Carnival 2010 as stated by   Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert:
Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert has called on motorists to be on guard for this month’s initial phase of breathalyser testing and its full implementation for Carnival 2010. Imbert expects that the first stage of breathalyser-testing in Trinidad and Tobago will begin at strategic locations on Christmas Eve. “The target date I have asked my staff and the police to achieve is December 24,” he said. He also set Carnival 2010 as the proposed deadline for the full implementation of testing throughout the country. “I would say by Carnival next year, all those who want to go and get drunk better be careful because it would not be a good idea to drink and drive because apart from the physical danger, I am certain you will be caught and you will be charged,” Imbert said at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

“I do not see any difficulties whatsoever in the full implementation of this system and I think we had all better be on guard because it is going to start in this month, December, and I think for Carnival next year it will be in full swing.” Imbert dismissed concerns that staffing constraints in the local police force will obstruct the implementation of the testing. “I do not forsee any manpower problems in terms of locating this 140 or 200 policemen to do this testing,” he said.
What this means to drinkers is that you can drink, but driving is certainly out of the question as it should be. It is one thing to be bombarded with the Arrive Alive message of  don't drink and drive and a whole other ball game when you know you can be fined and/or jailed for the offense. Personally I think the breathalyser is a long time coming to Trinidad and Tobago, though it will certainly take some adjusting to in a culture where there is a rum shop on practically every corner.

According to Minister Imbert "an average male of 5 foot 10 tall, weighing about 180 pounds would be able to have less than three - about two and a half - drinks over a period of three hours" to reach the legal limit of alcohol level."  Realistically speaking what Mr Imbert is asking is near impossible for even casual drinkers much less for the hearty drinkers, especially those patronizing the all inclusive fetes! After spending  $100.00US on average for one of the more popular all inclusives for Carnival, as a drinker you do NOT go for the variety of meal options, you go for the variety of drinks!

A very sobering thought with the breathalyser looming over Carnival 2010 is how will this affect the public when it comes to consuming alcohol at  fetes as well as drinking on the road for Monday and Tuesday? Are all inclusive fetes going to be as attractive to the masses knowing that you will  not be able to drink with abandon, trying to get your moneys worth if you intend on driving? And after two days of merriment and Johnny Walker on the road Carnival Monday and Tuesday how  many hours of sobriety will it take for a masquerader, drinking all day, to be legally fit to drive?

My advice  to all those who have no intention on changing their drinking habits for Carnival 2010 is to make sure you have a designated driver, one who is DEPENDABLE, and does not drink. I drink, my husband rarely does so he is the designated driver and even he is concerned on how the "legal sobriety limit" will now affect fetes and liming habits of Trinidadians!

 If a designated driver is not an option for you have the number of a taxi service on hand,arrange pick up after fetes even if it will cost you extra. Hire group  transport to take you to the fetes you are interested in going to, spread the cost among a group of friends. I have seen maxi taxis transporting fete goers to Beach House and Salybia fete, maybe this will be the norm for next year.If all else fails please, please be aware that you will have to sleep it off in your car until you are legally sober enough to drive home.

The drinking freedom many of you would have enjoyed in the past for Carnival  is no longer possible, the serious consequences of the breathalyser will hopefully force many to make a choice between getting drunk or getting behind the wheel; if you drink do not drive! I am certain that the police officers will be out in full force for Carnival, if not at any time of the year, setting up Breathalyser Road Blocks after fetes. Imagine being held in jail for failing the breathalyser test on Carnival Friday; you will not see the light of day until Ash Wednesday! Drinkers, you have been duly informed!

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