Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Driving for an Explanation

With progress, comes social education and legal punishment.
These days there are more cars on China's roads. For example in Beijing, an average of 1,200 new cars join the capital's streets everyday, or 261,000 vehicles were registered from January to July this year.

As there are more private cars on the roads, the chances of getting hit by a drunk driver are getting higher.
During the first six months of this year, there were 22,000 drunk driving cases in China, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier, according to authorities. In Beijing, 103 people were killed in 87 crashes related to drunk driving.
The government is now launching a new campaign to crack down on drunk driving, something that is starting to decline in the west, but still a serious issue.
The Chinese need to be educated on the dangers of drinking and driving, not just the punishment they could be handed down or that they shouldn't do it. When I was in high school every year we would get talks from policemen and representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to talk to us about the consequences of driving drunk. Their stories were enough to deter us or make us think twice about getting behind the wheel.

This is the kind of education campaign the government should be waging, not just imposing laws on people with sentences that can range from several months to death.

People need to hear the heart-breaking stories of those innocent ones who were killed, or those who had to pick up the pieces of their lives after they murdered someone while driving drunk. They need to understand the consequences of their actions, not that being able to afford a car means they have a license to drive.

Some blame China's heavy drinking culture, which is a factor. Those who must attend business banquets to clinch deals have to sit through rounds of maotai or erguotou, distilled spirits that leave a fiery sensation down the throat. And apparently the goal is for everyone to get drunk before a dinner like that can be proclaimed successful.

This need to get pissed and forcing others to as well has to stop. It's not only unhealthy, but dangerous too. What's the point of getting drunk and then killing someone later while driving back home?

How this thinking can be changed is anyone's guess. The relatively good thing is that the younger generation isn't as interested in Chinese liquor as their parents, and prefer beer and wine instead. However, that doesn't mean they can avoid the dangers of driving drunk too.

More education needs to be done at a grassroots level, but there are no non-profit groups like MADD here; the government is leery of people rallying around a cause and would rather shut them down than give them a chance to help society.

So in the end it's up to the government to tell people the dangers of drinking and driving, otherwise how is the public supposed to know?

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