The Malta Independent 21 July 2018, Saturday

TMIS Editorial: The best way to close off 2017 is to make it through to 2018

Sunday, 31 December 2017, 10:30 Last update: about 8 months ago

There are so many issues to potentially address in this final editorial of the year: the tragic loss of Daphne Caruana Galizia (which Noel Grima does in fine fashion in his opinion piece), the multiple assaults – perceived and real – to the rule of law in Malta, the wholesale sell-off of state assets, the manifold scandals that have rocked the rock over the past 12 months… the list goes on and on.

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Such issues are addressed elsewhere in today’s issue and, to our mind, the best way to close off 2017 is to help ensure that each and every one of us sees it through to 2018 safe and sound and without the needless loss of life or limb caused by drunk driving.

This is our yearly message of caution to all road users for this evening and if it makes just one person think twice before getting behind the wheel after having had one too many then it will have been well worth the precious page space it has consumed.

Tonight is the night for the country at large to let its hair down, crack open the champagne and celebrate the year gone by and the year to come with merriment and, no doubt , much imbibing.

We do not want rain on any parades, come across as negative or teetotallers but that message is quite clear and quite simple: do not drink and drive tonight – your life, your passengers’ lives and the lives of your fellow road users are far too precious to even consider such a risk.

Anyone who has known a victim of drunk driving will tell you that but even if they heard the message, how many of us would pay it proper heed?

And as such, the new traffic contravention ticketing system introduced as of this month is welcome news. No longer will people caught drinking and driving simply be slapped on the wrist, fined, or given a suspended sentence – they now face the very real prospect of having their driving licence suspended should they rack up enough points from their violations.

The new points system is all well and good when it comes to the more minor types of infractions but when it comes to the very real menace of drinking and driving, no amount of fines or points could sufficiently penalise drivers who place their own life, those of their passengers and those of their fellow road users at risk.

And in formulating the new rules, we believe the authorities should have gone further still. As matters stand, it takes 12 points to have one’s licence suspended. As of November, 181 people had been arraigned in court for drunk-driving offences, compared with 203 in 2016 and 188 in 2015. First-time offenders found driving over the legal limit now face the prospect of a €1,200 fine or even a licence suspension of up to three years.

But in our opinion, a drink driving offence should automatically lead to a licence suspension, as is practised in a number of northern European countries. But, having said that, we have certainly taken a huge step forward when it comes to enforcement.

Our message is stressed at this time every year, and it simply cannot be stressed enough: if you have had one too many do not drive – take a taxi or public transport… walk or crawl.

It is really as simple as that. The potential ramifications are simply not worth a gamble which, if you win, awards you with the prize of having your car outside your front door the next morning. But, if you lose that gamble, the cost can be very dear indeed, and a complete write-off of an automobile could be the least of those costs.

For those who have their priorities mixed up and who have not been deterred by the risk to life and limb that drunk driving poses, the threat of losing their licences may just do the trick.

A Happy, and safe, New Year to all our readers.

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