Let’s start this off by saying that we totally agree with harsher penalties for drunk driving. It’s an incredibly reckless act that can cause great loss of life, and anyone under the influence of any substance really should not be behind the wheel. That being said, Malaysians have been in uproar over the last few days because of a number of drunk driving incidents – with some even going so far as to say that alcohol should be banned.
Well, maybe it’s time to take a step back and understand the problem. Many developed countries manage to severely cut down drunk driving with extreme penalties – some countries send you straight to jail if you’ve even had one beer in your system. With ride sharing and taxis always available, those who drink will usually manage to find their way home – and overall the system seems to work.
But it isn’t the punishment alone that is a deterrent. To understand why, you need to look at other illegal activities like purchasing or using drugs. Malaysia has very strict punishments when it comes to the possession of drugs, and yet people still find a way to get their hands on these illegal substances. Even back in the days of alcohol prohibition in the United States of America, moonshine runners and bootleggers were helping to get home-brewed alcohol into the hands of those skirting the law.
Really, the only way to curb drunk driving is a combination of penalties and enforcement. There’s no use having an extremely harsh sentence if people can simply slip by roadblocks because of selective testing or soliciting bribes. It needs to be made clear that anyone who drinks and is over the legal limit – whether that’s the limit as it is now, or lower – will face the music.
All of this aside, let’s get back to the reason why we’re here. We love seeing Malaysians hopping on the bandwagon because it gives us something to pick at, and today we’re going to look at the idea of drunk driving being so incredibly rampant given the recent incidents. The problem we’re facing is that the actual statistics of cases by type vary depending on which department you look at and the way they group the actual cases.
If we look at the most optimistic case from the Ministry of Home Affairs, we find that drunk driving and drug related accidents and deaths are incredibly low at single or double digits a year. From a percentage standpoint that’s incredibly small and almost negligible when you compare it to other tallies from other categories – for example, in 2019 there were 33 times more cases of deaths from driving against the flow of traffic than those by drunk driving.
Say that you don’t believe these statistics. A more extreme example is from a presentation that the Ministry of Transport provided to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. In this far less detailed report, there are much higher figures as you can see in the picture above. And yet, the percentage of deaths from total fatalities across all kinds of incidents has been under 1% for 2017 and 2018.
What we’re trying to get at is that while we can all agree that penalties and punishments for drunk driving should be more severe and better enforced, the actual number of drunk driving cases and fatalities are almost negligible compared to the variety of other cases that make up our frankly embarrassing road accident statistics. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back and understand the context and scope of the problem before we jump to conclusions. And remember – don’t drink and drive.