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Thursday 18 January 2018
Editorial

That rum curfew

According to figures given by the coordinator of the police’s road safety project, Brent Batson, there have been about half-a-dozen arrests for drunk driving every day. While that adds up to a total of 2,400 arrests for drunk driving so far this year, it is likely a drop in the bucket when compared with actual violations.

Though road fatalities are down to 109 compared with 127 in 2016, the prevalence of drunk driving continues to cause concern. Which is why the interesting proposal of Justice of the Peace Akbar Khan should be carefully weighed.

“Bring on a rum curfew,” said Khan in an interview with Newsday this week. “It should be law that bars and pubs close by midnight.”

The idea of having a last call at rum shops, pubs and recreational venues is hardly a new one. About two dozen countries in various parts of the world have fixed hours for alcohol sales. In the UK, current closing restrictions date from World War I when munitions factory workers needed enough time to sober up before going to work early the next morning.

There is strong evidence to suggest last calls have a beneficial impact on crime levels. In Australia, the introduction of “lockouts” in Sydney resulted in big drops in violent crime, in some cases by as much as 45 per cent. Residents have also historically backed such measures because they reduce noise pollution.

At the same time, last calls undoubtedly reduce sales after midnight. They also dampen the flow of traffic at night-time, something detrimental to urban recreational centres which do trade during the witching hours.

While Khan sees restrictions as fostering discipline, in practice the opposite might ensue. The rules in the UK have contributed to a binge drinking culture: people drink more heavily at earlier times in order to compensate for the cut-off. This encourages intoxication, as opposed to the steady pacing of drinks.

Therefore, the State must think carefully before introducing such a measure. It must consult with relevant stakeholders. And it must also remember that the deeper issue is not the act of alcohol consumption itself but rather the motivation of the drinker that is the key. Alcohol can be beneficial to us as social beings, just as much as it can harm.

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