Cheers! Or not…

Last month, Brazil’s government approved a new law, popularly named “dry law”. As the name suggests, this law forbiddens any quantity of alcohol to be consumed before driving a car. If someone drinks a can of beer or a single glass of wine and gets pulled over by the police, a fine up to almost one thousand Reais is given (something like US$600) and the driver’s license is apprehended for one year.

Brazil has a sad characteristic of having laws that no one respects, mostly because the lack of fiscalization. But with the dry law, things are happening in a different way. You actually see lots and lots of police barriers in the cities, specially on fridays and saturdays, pulling over drivers near known bar areas. Nationwide press is showing these actions almost everyday. Government representants are saying that car accidents have dropped almost 20% in the entire country after the law began to take effect.

At a first glimpse, some may say “well, that’s excellent! Nice job!”. But there a few points that should be taken in consideration before judging.

As I said before, no alcohol is permitted before driving. Neither a small cup of wine, or fifty packs of black ale. But I believe there’s a difference in there. Here in this country, it’s part of the culture to meet friends, loved ones and family at a bar just to chat and cheer something. This practise doesn’t mean that everyone is going to get their heads blowing drunk every night. No, far from that!

Also, it’s no longer permitted to go out to a restaurant and ask for a fine glass of wine with your wife or your friends to celebrate a birthday, an engagement, a job promotion, or anything. If you drink, you will be treated like a criminal.

This law is unnecessarily harsh. I’m strongly in favor of hard punishment for drunk drivers who put other people lives in danger. But that’s not what this law is about. It has actually reduced the penalty for those who commits a crime while drunk driving, like hit someone else. It’s totally nonsense.

There’s another point. Before this dry law, Brazil had another similar law, but not that severe. The difference is that when that old law was on, police didn’t care. There was absolutely no barriers, no fiscalization, no equipment to detect alcohol, nothing. But now, with a new sensation and with the media daily coverage, policemen and government are having their 15 minutes of fame. All on the people’s back.

To finish, car accidents are not caused only because of alcohol. Amongst the several causes, we can list badly conserved streets and roads, covered with holes; lack of signalization; narrow two way roads; cars with absolutely no conditions to be on the streets, but out there anyway; lack of driving education; animals on the road, and so on. All of those items listed we have plenty here in Brazil, and many others I’m forgetting right now.

If you want to visit Brazil and taste the famous Caipirinha, remember: don’t rent a car!


2 responses to “Cheers! Or not…

  1. No alcohol when driving – quite a good law, but one perhaps more for media sensation as you point out, given what has happened in the past.

    A law is ultimately only as good as the people who wrote it and the people who will enforce it.

  2. What a cute symbolic use of the letters M.A.D.D. and S.A.D.D. so that we take notice of this and somehow credibility is added to their cause. We as a community need to move away from these organizations that are not providing for us what we need and deserve.

    Drinking and Driving has been a topic richly debated and advertised in the media. The offending drivers just keep on coming. MADD is one of the strongest organizations that started from very little and now holds a voice with great strength in the political forums as well as the public. Recently, the police force in my area displayed large photos of violators of drivers driving over the permitted alcohol level. They are trying a new approach, to shame the violators. Actually, the shame they know has been their tactic all along. But still, with all the reasons to drink and drive, it continues to make the headlines and anger the families of the victims and to further confuse the issue with no resolve. The insurance companies are safe, the political leaders act to remain distant from subjection. And the violators when asked why they did what they did respond by saying the truth, that something in their environment made them do it. A certain something or group of actions that neglected his or her need to function properly. A situation that can only ensure that an accident will eventually surface to our attention. The problem is that we get wind of the splash of media coverage way too late to be an influence in someone’s life. As we newly read the hot-wires with breaking information on these soon to be convicted criminals, we gasp with indifference, we gossip up a storm and give our reasons why they are worthless trash so to sound in unison with others. There are many, obviously confused that believe its a shameful occurance and want no interest in getting involved due to the overwelming case against this person. Picket signs outside a court office maybe will only get rained on. A letter to a local congressman will only receive an acknowledgement for a vote.

    At about 3 a.m. last New Years Eve I was coming home on the Long Island Railrod from New York City’s Penn Station and throughout the train were very tired and noisy people and about one tenth of the passengers were off duty police officers. Some revelers were still with beers in hand and many of the cops just told them they can still drink but to keep it away from them. That’s when I remembered earlier that night calling the LIRR phoneline to get schedule times and they had a brief but insistant announcement that alcohol will not be permitted on any trains. I did see many drinking on the way in and now on the way back and have never seen enforcement of this rule as I have done this trip just about every New Year’s eve. I wondered if the phone announcement was to make the establishments happy but that they knew all along that they would not really have to strictly enforce it. Well I also wondered where the support groups were, like; MADD, SADD, parents, teachers, coaches, governing officials, journalists, beer company officials, etc. Could this possibly be a good front page question in the newspaper as to why we as a whole have completely forgotten to take care of our own? It seems that these young people were left to have their fun and that later everyone would get involved to pick up the pieces. These pretty teenagers and adult professionals were expected to act perfectly on their own against pretty powerful odds. I did see a drunk man slurring as he talked with an officer much of the ride and then as he and his friends reached their point of distination, the group of four got off visibly all drunk. I wondered who was going to be driving. I had hoped they would take a cab but I was not at all going to say anything with so many officers in authority. I wondered if anyone was thinking the way I was. It seemed to me that if you took the alcohol, the nice clothes and the celebration away that this train was like a prison of forgotten souls. My local newspaper acts as a public servant and exploits stories like this but I really wondered if they would react if I secretly filmed the train and its passengers during the following year and showed them of my experiences. I knew that they may jump to action but that even if they did that it would just add to the billion articles that have preceeded. And then I thought of the backlash from about every social group there is. Even I was reluctant to speak to anyone.

    The LIRR lost a passenger recently named Natalie Smead. After this girl had fallin into the gap between the train and the platform, the LIRR made some changes. Stations added plastic strips to the platforms to lessen the size of the gap. They displayed posters to show the customers of the dangers of not being attentive to your surroundings. They also put many stickers warning to beware of the gap. Many of the these simple additions needed one year for them to orchestrate. But in these changes you won’t see a poster showing Natalie’s face and a caption that she died before improvements. One reason is that they fear losing more if they leave room for blame from others. Why not be thankful that because of Natalie’s mistake that the LIRR is better serving us all. A criminal offender is someone who has made a mistake but a mistake with reason and this includes rapists, and murderers who’ve made bigger mistakes because of greater reason. I ask the victims and families of victims to embrace this positive action. All of the rehabilitated criminals will be a testament to what should have never happened and never will again. This will provide for you what the authorities could not, an end to what harmed you.

    Another thing happened while on the LIRR one evening as a conductor had a problem with a smoking passenger and he stopped the train to run around the cars looking for this girl. He called the cops and they all ran around to confront her out on the platform. Well, by this time, this full train of passengers had waiting about 15 minutes and once the train got started again, the girl was still on the train with us. I guess the authorities were not in the position to do anything. During this incident, many tickets were ingnored and I saw four visibly drunk young women exit the train after seeing a Mets baseball game, one of the girls with a relaxed daze asked who it was that had the car keys. So see what we missed by being distracted? This is something that can easily be changed today.

    Why haven’t the organizations with all the present strength come up with a mutual effort to rid DWI for all? Isn’t this what they want? Free taxi rides without condition will do this. Similar to the freeing of prisoners, the giving of free rides sounds scary at first but not only will it not cause chaos but it will create jobs, help, and happiness. Persons with special needs will be able to get around more and see the world more and be an active spender at all the shopping centers rather than staying home or taking a bus to the casinos. Normal citizens will not need the taxis free rides but in a dire emergency they may use occasionally. With free rides in taxis, they will be available for all the bars and restaurants serving alcohol. Just a call away will be the solution to DWI. Many of the taxis will already we waiting outside the most establishments. Anyone not calling a taxi will be clinic bound and believe me that someone, even a stranger, will call a taxi for them and everyone will happily use it. Persons with special needs or just anebriated or persons with emergencies will be able to ride for free. For these fares, the taxi driver will submit a ticket to the owner and receive their fare and tip. The companies will use this as a tax writeoff specially for this service. Taxis will operate normally for every other situation collecting normal fares in cash. More taxis will be on the road to meet the supply and taxi drivers will have full rights to call the police or hospitals for assistance. Taxi drivers will also be expected to pass courses of safety education. The reduction in the police force will be great as well as empty court rooms. This savings will be enormous and go directly to the future instead of trying to pay to make sense of the past. There will be a much better salary given to each of the fewer policemen and women. In many countries the salaries of public officials are dozens or even one hundred times higher than persons of law enforcement leaving the door for corruption wide open.

    I believe it was the organization SADD, students against Drunk Driving that had a couple of polite young teenage girls set up one day with a table and give aways in front of a Wall Mart store. They had banners announcing the problem of students on drugs. They were raising money to help raise more awareness and to give support for the students in need with difficulties from the use of drugs. As I walked with my friend, I said that I would not want those kids off the drugs. He was very surprised to hear me say this and asked why. I explained that kids being on drugs are a great sign to us to target the problem. If we only eliminate their drug problem then we erase the tracks that lead back to the source. Sure its nice to sugar coat things to make them more palatable for us to absorb but know that all the money in the world will not generate awareness. Awareness can generate support and results. Freeing the prisoners will get the kids off drugs.

    I’ve seen full pages of head shots of criminal offenders involved in drunk driving and it seems the media and police force are really getting uptight because of their exausting efforts that have only led to the same thing which is people driving drunk and killing innocent citizens. The costs factor of those who do survive these accidents and live with the pain and need of constant rehabilitation, not to mention the cost to the tax payers. But its ok, we put the bad guys away, far away, and we put the families of the victims in the official house so they will authenticate the proceedings and give full backing in their already fragil state and make it a go to send away the problem and society will applaud our efforts to protect all of us from harm and eradicate each additional one as they surface. And they will surface.

    We as a mature, well informed society will realize that improvements will always have to be made to ensure the best possible safety for us all but more importantly to realize that mistakes will happen before improvements and this is ok and that mistakes will also happen afterward and that this is ok too. Some will be lost in a functioning society but we as a people will never allow ourselves to become lost again and will remain steadfast. Remember when we were so scared in school to make our first mistakes and some teacher reassured us that it’s ok, “mistakes are good.” “They help us get better.” Growing up I wondered why this really didn’t apply to life as it sounds so correct. I’ve always known it is correct.

    The entering of confusion. Why is it that something such as an auto accident that must be an occasional occurance in order for us to coexist together that when an accident occurs, the likes of lawyers have confused the issue to make it a debatable and confusing.

    Lets put an end to all the rhetoric and focus more on results. The entering into a new era of directivism. We have entered a crucial time when it is very costly to have waste and not to utilize all of our useful resources for our own good. No more wasted money. No more cash to the organizations that are stuck as if they were a car sitting bumper to bumper. Break away to efficient spending of monies. The government will take care of the national need to fund health clinics and they will profit from them by allocating persons into the workforce resulting in more production and less expenses. The savings from the closing of prisons will be used for profit, not waste. Let this be the governments duty for us but let us instruct them of their duties.

    Controlling temptations or unruly behavior for a coexisting society. Taking away all speed limits that are punishable by law would bring society to willingly behave in a safe manner. If we were to sugggest that the safest speed by study is between 50 – 70 mph then this is the speed that society will follow. Because of the pride of being part of a society of unity, persons will happily obide and since their basic needs will be met, they will not have reason to cheat anyone including themselves. Anyone finding themselves unable to maintain a balance to coexist accordingly in society will get the help they need, never to be placed behind bars. If policemen encounter a driver displaying signs of unfairness on the road. They will be directed to seek help so that they may return to driving asap but as long as they are not able to get better, they will not return to driving. The never ending joy of being part of a peaceful union will feel much like a beautiful marriage of two different persons working independently but jointly coexisting to enjoy fruitful works.

    The law is hoping that we don’t make hasty decisions due to temptations. They will even prosecute accomplices to a crime that know of a criminal offense but say nothing to authorities. I guess the temptation was to stick by either their friend or the fear of the punishable hand of the law, or mearly to weak to stand against peer pressure or maybe due to one million other reasons that are not even understood when it comes to our complex bodies and why we do what we do. During criminal trials, the families of the defendant are often stating the absolute innocence of their family member when the law and society has already viewed it important enough to subject this person to the decision of the courts. It is so common for family members to take the side of innocence and to be vocal in their insistance. They are often accomplaces, knowing much more themselves but unable to decide correctly. But even they sitting in a court seat as a bistander are untouchable to any procecution because they have not the blood on their hands. Shouldn’t we all be embarrassed by this? I am, but I also do understand why this has been our way.
    The business of law and the business of media have hurt our society in great ways. Are they to blame, NO! No one is to blame. When everyone joins together then no one will be blamed and the free living will commense. Media is important to take care of our needs, the law the same, local politicians as well. But when they subject us to unhealthy practices that will not serve our bodies respectfully, this is when it is not needed and accomplishing nothing more than more confusion for us as intelligent forward minded people.

    Just imagine a world where we are not consumed by stall tactics because of all the static. If our society as a whole were to perform as a powerful machine, churning out positive progress. As a people, we would be able to advance in countless ways with just a fraction of time as opposed to our present situation where each generation repeats the similar lives due to destructive stagnation.

    The future is all about conservation and putting this world in a positive direction. The future will need to be more cut and dry as to not create waste with less wasted time and a greater use of unutilized resouces. The public will probably continue to be consumed by the worthless media coverage but i assure you that the temptation to insult and demean humanity will be no longer.
    You may have noticed that famous Campbell’s chicken soup cans have changed some of the labels from red to the color pink to honor awareness for breast cancer awareness. If this present craze of raising awareness actually does hit the mark, then I ask that red and green ribbons and bracelts be used to bring awareness to the billions of lives and dollars lost due to the organizations in place. Today, I saw a commercial of the WWF foundation that gives a video of the polar bears suffering as the ice around them is rapidly melting. But this organization wants a $16. donation to save these animals. Yes, another in millions of examples of lost donation dollars when really we need not donate ever to achieve our goals.

    An organization saying that they would be happy to just save one is an insurance plan for when they will fail. Saving only one is the failure of an awareness attempt. No one is wrong in doing this. But a project that guarantees success will not allow only one to be saved but will instead bother others to change for better or for worse. If it’s a fundraiser with a weak attempt, it will only transform into a money eating administration. Our global campaign to save us all on this fragile planet will benefit from this understanding. We cannot afford to make friends with donations when it comes to us all dying.

    Mark Twain, explaining his views regarding the public’s participation during the horrors of public hangings, emphasized that their motivation was not inhumane but a weakness with his or her aversion due to being on the unpopular side. Also he described a moral cowardice that is a part of about 999.99% of society.

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