By AZARD ALI Tuesday, May 26 2015
ADVOCACY group Arrive Alive has expressed so much concern with the high percentage of persons being arrested for drunk driving in the Southland that it is planning to open an office in San Fernando.
Police figures revealed yesterday that with just over 1,200 drunk drivers charged throughout Trinidad and Tobago for drunk driving so far this year, 65 percent of that figure originates south of the Caroni bridge.
Assistant Commissioner Police (Traffic) Deodath Dulalchan, who disclosed the data accompanied it with a call for Senior Superintendents in other police divisions north of the Caroni bridge, to intensify Driving Under the Influence (DUI) police exercises.
“It does not necessarily mean more people in South are driving while drunk, but that most of the exercises are south of the Caroni bridge,” Dulalchan said. He said a total of 7,000 persons have been tested and of that number, 1,200 persons have been charged.
“I would say that 65 percent of those persons are south of the Caroni bridge. However, most of the DUI exercises are being conducted in such areas. We intend to call on those officers in charge of those stations west of the country to conduct more DUI exercies,” ACP Dulalchan said.
Arrive Alive (AA) yesterday expressed concern that if most of the drunk drivers are from south Trinidad given the heavy concentration of DUI exercises, there might be need for AA to initiate plans to set up a rehabilitation centre in San Fernando.
The issue of too many drunk drivers on the nation’s roads and the need for rehabilitating them was a source of concern for a mMagistrate yesterday, who, presiding in the San Fernando Magistrates’ court, requested 17 of 22 motorists charged with failing breathalyser tests at the weekend, to attend Arrive Alive counseling sessions.
Commenting on Magistrate Sherene Murray-Bailey’s suggestion, Arrive Alive President, Sharon Inglefield, told Newsday yesterday that it might be that more drunk drivers are south of the country.
“We are looking for location to have a centre in south Trinidad and to train staff for counselling drunk drivers,” Inglefield said. Yesterday, 22 persons were arrested and when they pleaded guilty before Murray-Bailey, she sent all, but five, for counselling at AA.
Yesterday was the third occasion in three months Murray-Bailey had opted to recommend AA counselling, instead of imposing a fine upon the drivers pleading guilty. Her approach is a marked distinction from Senior Magistrate Gloria Jasmath, presiding in the same courtroom, and who last week, slapped every guilty DUI offender with fines ranging from $4,000 to $12,000. Jasmath raked in $120,000 from 12 drunk drivers.
When on May 4 Murray Bailey sent a number of drivers to AA, the Magistrate commented that drivers needed to be educated on the amount of alcohol they should consume in order to gauge whether they might be exceeding the legal limit of 35 microgrammes alcohol.
Inglefield told Newsday yesterday that since most of the drunk drivers seemed to be from South based on the many referrals to AA by Murray-Bailey, AA as a Non-Governmental Organisation, saw the need for another venue to host rehabilitation programmes in keeping pace with referrals by magistrates.
This weekend’s DUI Task Force exercise was spearheaded by Insp Joseph Jaikaran, Cpl Rishni Ramdass, and included WPC Charlaine Maynard Small, Cpls Roberts, PCs Sujeet Ramcharan, Lennard Thomas, Alex Mohammed, Hinds and La Borde.
Yesterday, Sgt Diniath Harricharan prosecuted the cases and in the case of Dion Thomas, he told Murray-Bailey after pleading guilty, that he drank puncheon rum with his grandmother on Saturday night, because that was her favourite drink. His reading was given by the prosecutor as 72 micrograms per 100 milliliters of breath.
Murray-Bailey asked Thomas to attend Arrive Alive and return to court on June 12 for mitigation and sentencing. Devon Cook who gave a reading of 46 mg at 1.30 am on Saturday, told Murray-Bailey that he attended a “get together” and, “bachaanal” broke out so he decided to leave. He was referred to Arrive Alive and will know his fate before the magistrate on June 12, when he shall know his fate.
Bobby Gopie whose DUI reading was 62 mg, told Murray Bailey that he is an oyster vendor and he must drink everyday, because his body develops an itch while digging oysters in the mangrove. After telling him to attend a doctor who would recommend some medicine, Murray-Bailey advised Gopie to attend Arrive Alive.
Pooran Ramdass, whose alcohol reading was 76 mg at 2.30 am on Saturday, told the magistrate that he went to a family “get together” and wanted to spend the night, “but fight broke out”. He also was advised to attend Arrive Alive and to return on June 12. Earlier this year, in January, Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz, in announcing the increase of fines under new legislation to a maximum of $22,500 for failing a breathalyser test, made a special plea to magistrates “What I am asking the magistrates to do,” the Minister said, is throw the book at them.