Thoughts on pedestrians being given a criminal record

These are my own personal thoughts about this matter:

The law does refer to the arrest of passengers drinking in vehicles – not to those that are intoxicated and being transported from point A to B.

With respect to pedestrians, I do believe that Howard Dembovsky, whose mind is admirably always focussed on justice for all, has raised some compassionate points against giving a pedestrian a criminal record which will render him unemployable. As stated in his newsletter, “Given the fact that most people who walk under the influence of alcohol usually originate from poorer communities, it is unfathomable that we should be seeking to completely preclude them from gaining employment due to having a criminal record against their names.”

However, in my opinion, while that is true, we must bear in mind that these are adults. They are not children who have no understanding of the consequences of their actions, and if they are actually so ill-informed, perhaps some strong TV campaigns would go a long way towards educating them in their responsibility and the consequences of their decisions should they decide to be drunk (and probably disorderly) either in vehicles or in the streets, causing problems to drivers.

 

In the majority of cases they will go home and terrify their wives and children after their drinking sprees, and become violent, so I have no sympathy at all with their human frailties and addictions. As a matter of fact, their families are probably impoverished largely due to their drinking habits. One only has to visit the average home of an alcoholic to see the shortages the family has to endure to say nothing of the complexes and shame that affects their children adversely all their lives. No matter which way they strive to justify their actions, they are also bad role-models for their children, who in many cases will be washouts too, due to various hang-ups and addictions. Yes. I make no apology for the fact that I do consider alcoholics to be washouts, no matter who they are, until they have the guts to get sober and stay sober.

 

As one enters almost every small town in South Africa, the first thing one generally sees is a bottle store. There are thousands of households in South Africa which are poorer and a lot unhappier as a direct result of the drinking habits of a very high percentage of our citizens. When they lose their breadwinner and suffer great financial deprivation, they commonly are very relieved that he is no longer there to ruin their lives in other respects.

 

Traffic authorities and so-called experts often get drunk themselves, swaggering arrogantly, looking for an argument with someone, while staggering towards their vehicles, and while doing so, they too are pedestrians. When they can’t find their vehicles due to the extreme severity of their drunken state, they possibly publically relieve themselves of the vast quantities of alcohol they have consumed,  thinking it a huge joke, in or alongside of the road.

 

They might also get out of their cars to walk across a road to buy cigarettes on the way home etc, where they become a problem for any passing driver too, if they have managed to survive the trip that far as a driver without killing someone.

 

I am stunned by the rationalisation of those who indulge. Despite their knowledge and daily consequences of the results of alcohol abuse, they do it anyway and laugh about it.

 

What makes a traffic official or authority any less of a menace on the road as they cross it to reach their cars, than an impoverished pedestrian after they have both consumed alcoholic beverages?

 

I consider them all to be murderers waiting to strike out at innocent citizens and believe the law should be very strict in this regard. The sad thing is they somehow justify their actions, as it they are so sophisticated  and “cool.”

I therefore endorse Howard Dembovsky’s statement regarding “us being more than half way through Transport Month, we note that the “name and shame” campaign of convicted drunk drivers previously successfully run in the Western Cape by Lead SA has still not been implemented on a wider (countrywide) basis as was indicated by the RTMC.  This tool acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be drunk drivers and it is puzzling why it is not being utilized.” SAIDI calls for this to be implemented too.

You say “I have had first-hand experience of vehicle versus intoxicated pedestrian on urban roads and freeways when I was still in traffic law enforcement, not a sight anyone should have to remember.” I agree.

 

I have also been at the scene of a crash with the primary response car of an ambulance service when an apparently drunk pedestrian ran out from the veld and was hit by a driver who did not see him in the unlit road going to Attridgeville, and had no time to try to miss him. The pedestrian had been thrown up the bonnet, against the front windscreen, then over the roof of the car, fortunately not breaking the front windscreen, since the man’s wife was holding their baby on her lap, but his body broke the rear windscreen, then fell onto the road where a second vehicle drove over him. It was a horrible thing to witness as I saw his covered body lying there, although I was spared the blood and body parts spread on tarmac. I pity those who have had to see things like that. How dare drunk pedestrians inflict such trauma on others?

 

I also started to understand why the cost of each road crash is so astronomically high when I saw every ambulance service in Pretoria arriving at the scene where they all knew just one pedestrian had been hit. I wondered if they were really all necessary at that point, or if they wanted some excitement on an otherwise uneventful night, or if their presence was in fact essential or even useful to secure the safety of the others directly involved in handling the incident, but I am digressing.

 

So yes, I do agree it be best to remove drunk pedestrians from the roadside, but if “pedestrians are found to be walking whilst intoxicated, taking them to a place of safety to sober up – not locking them up in police cells,” as Caro Smith apparently said, I am quite certain they will make it a regular habit, with absolutely no effort to improve their behaviour. At the risk of being facetious, why not tuck them up with a fluffy blanket and a teddy bear at the same time? They might so enjoy the experience that they repeat it regularly.

 

I do feel there is a greater picture to be considered here. The families of the drunk pedestrians desperately crave the protection and help of the law makers and law keepers, despite some wives defending their husbands vigorously when others intervene on their behalf. The drunk husbands are very commonly bullies in our patriarchal society. Children frequently grow up terrified of frightening, drunk abusive fathers. We need laws that will not only get them off the roads, but also compel them to clean up their act and start supporting their families, by being their protectors and providers, while becoming good role models for the next generation too. No employer wants to employ a person with a drinking habit anyway.

 

I would welcome laws which discourage drinking and walking, for the sake of drivers, as well as the families of the drinkers.

 

While the matters at hand are to discuss the “Gauteng Community Safety To Arrest Passengers Consuming Liquor, and Public Drinking And Walking Under The Influence Of Alcohol Is An Illegal And Arrestable Offence (Drunkenness), ” I believe society is far too quiet about the incredible amount of alcohol consumed by the population as a whole in South Africa, right across the board. Is it because their guilty consciences do not permit them to take effective measures to radically reduce the abuse of alcohol? The “name and shame” campaign of convicted drunk drivers appeals strongly to my sense of taking effective measures.

 

Strong adverts, similar to those from Australia, would be an excellent move on our TVs, together with a database of repeat offenders, even subjecting them to DNA profiling, to receive a criminal record after a first recorded and signed warning might be very effective and discourage ongoing drunkenness?

 

We really need to discourage the excessive use of alcohol, since it often changes people’s characters drastically and is the direct cause of countless tragedies, on our roads and in nearly every home right across the country, although I do realise that there are many who can overlook and minimize these matters, since they derive great profit from other people’s misfortunes and have no regard for their suffering, despite their mandates to serve the people.

Pat Allen

National President

SAIDI