National alcohol policy 'rushed', insurers fear
Breathalyser tests not being carried out often enough, lobbyists say
The alcohol policy unveiled earlier this month was “rushed”, according to insurance association head Adrian Galea, who also criticised the new document for sending a distorted message and not being strong enough.
Speaking to the Times of Malta days after the National Alcohol Policy was rolled out, Mr Galea, who serves as the director general of the Malta Insurance Association (MIA), said that while the body had always been among the first to welcome such efforts, the unveiling of the new policy seemed to suggest that the government was not adequately prepared to address the issue and had rushed into drawing up the new document. “This new policy document sends a distorted message as it is not strong enough,” he said.
“Certain statements – such as saying that they’re going to lower the limits when in fact these have already been introduced – shows that they are not well prepared.
“We cannot afford to send such a message out there, especially with such a serious issue. We need all the authorities to be in sync and tackling drink-driving properly,” Mr Galea warned.
The association head went on to question why breathalyser tests were still not being carried out as often as had been promised, noting that these seemed to be stepped up during the festive season but not be carried out at certain other events, such as festivals and weddings, where it was highly likely that people getting behind the wheel would have consumed large quantities of alcohol.
We need all the authorities to be in sync and tackling drink-driving properly
He also called for “more regular and random” testing, insisting that breathalyser tests should be mandatory in the case of accidents where drivers suffer serious injuries.
“We need more regular and random testing. This means that the police should be on the side of the road and stop cars where drivers are committing an infraction, say they are using their mobile phones. But if they think that the person might be driving under the influence of alcohol, then they would also carry out the test,” he said.
“We also think that such tests should be carried out every single time that there is a serious accident.
“People are suffering grievous injuries and they are sometimes dying as a result and yet the drivers involved are not being breathalysed. This should be mandatory when such an accident occurs.”
Apart from ensuring clarity for the insurers involved, this would also help the authorities with their investigations, he added.
Apart from more drink-driving tests needing to be carried out, Mr Galea also called on the law enforcement authorities to start looking into the possibility of testing for drugs, insisting that the problem with people who had consumed drugs getting behind the wheel was becoming increasingly more common.
He pointed out that it was also important to keep in mind that drugs took longer than alcohol to get out of one’s system, meaning drivers could still be under the influence of an illicit substance if this had been consumed two days earlier.
“The MIA continues to emphasise the importance that drink and/or drug-driving may only be properly tackled if the necessary resources are in place and given to those units who police our roads,” he said.
“Not only is the proper equipment needed, but the human resources need to be regularly trained to administer such tests when the need arises.
“Dependence on drugs and other prescribed, dangerous drugs (where it is specifically stated that machinery should not be operated and vehicles not driven) is also another challenge to be reckoned with.
“Regrettably though, while the policing authorities appear to be suitably equipped to test for the presence of alcohol, reports in the media have indicated that they are not equipped to test impaired driving caused by drug use (licit or illicit),” Mr Galea noted.
The legislative framework that regulates this also needs to be updated, he added, so that it reflects modern day realities and set limits for different types of legal drugs.