It’s about time the Police rethink drunk driving penalties

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 25 October 2017, 12:00AM

One life lost on the road is one too many. 

Fifteen lives unnecessarily claimed by drunk drivers is a tragedy of enormous magnitude. If we are not concerned, something is terribly amiss somewhere. 

Keep in mind that each and everyone of those lives represent a person who is loved, cherished by their families, colleagues and friends.

These are valuable members of the community. Some of them are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and so forth. Which is why the pain of losing them due to the recklessness and negligence caused by alcohol consumption on behalf of drivers cuts deeply.

In Samoa today, it is undeniable we have ourselves a real problem when it comes to drunk drivers. So much so the growing number of people being killed as a result of such actions has forced the Ministry of Police to rethink the current drunk driving penalties. 

We couldn’t agree more. It’s about time.

We have lost so many loved ones due to the negligence of some people.

In June this year, one of the most tragic cases occurred in Savai’i where a mother and her four-year-old son were killed by a drunk driver. 

We were told that Sinei Aunei had been drinking with his co-worker at Salelologa from 5 until 7.30 when he decided to get behind the wheel. He was apparently advised against driving home but he wouldn’t listen.

Aunei fell asleep. He did not know how his vehicle collided with an oncoming car.

“You were speeding, and you were under the influence of alcohol,” said Justice Tuatagaloa during sentencing.

“You have put the lives of all the people at risk on this day. You didn’t stop when you hit the back of Ah Liki’s delivery car. From Salelologa to Iva is no near place but you went zig zagging and your head lights were not on.”

The consequences are devastating.

Ask one of the occupants of the other vehicle who survived and has been badly traumatized by what happened.

He misses his mother and younger brother every day, the Court heard. He still feels pain in his body and he also uses sticks to help him walk.

The woman’s husband is equally devastated. He finds it difficult to forget his wife and his son. He said he wanted to die when he learned of the accident.

Although he had accepted the ifoga performed by Aunei, he said he could never forgive him for what he had done to his family.

Which is understandable. That mother and her child did not deserve to die in such a horrific manner. Aunei should never have been allowed behind the steering wheel that night. He should not have gotten anywhere near a position to drive a car. 

But this is the problem; people are finding it so easy to do that because they know they will get away with it. Which is why we find it comforting to hear that the Police are considering stricter laws to ensure people like Aunei do not hurt any one else anymore. 

Last Sunday, the Acting Assistant Police Commissioner, Monalisa Tia’i, made it clear that the issue is under the radar.

“The penalty should be increased to make people aware that drunk driving is a serious crime and to ensure that members of the community make better decisions in the future,” she said. 

“Drivers are encouraged to think before deciding to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol.”

We’d like to see the Police acting on this sooner rather than later, especially with the holiday period a month away.

The fact is the growing number of alcohol-related deaths is alarming. Hardly a month goes by without several incidents where precious lives are wasted due to alcohol abuse and drinking sessions gone wrong. 

What do you think?

If our opinion is sought, our solution is simple: if you can’t control yourself around alcohol, stay far, far away from it. Don’t touch it. 

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 25 October 2017, 12:00AM

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