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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ethiopia

6th January 2014

Taking the Pledge

Last Friday I was a guest speaker at an event to help UK company Diageo launch their “Shoom Shufair”/ Don’t Drink & Drive Campaign. This aims to encourage anyone planning to drink alcohol to appoint a designated driver (who abstains from alcohol) to take them home afterwards. Similar Diageo campaigns elsewhere in the world have been very successful. In terms of its scope and nature, this is a unique campaign for Ethiopia.

HMA Greg Dorey making a speech at Diageo's Shum Shufier event
HMA Greg Dorey making a speech at Diageo’s Shum Shufier event

Aside from the speakers, a range of celebrities – including sporting legend Haile Gebreselassie and Ethiopia’s first rock group Jano Band – queued up to sign the “Shoom Shufair” pledge. So did I and others invited to the event. It’s true I have a colleague who drives me to official events. But I often drive myself when I am off duty and I agree it is a huge risk – to ourselves, our families and our fellow citizens, if we drink and drive. It’s very difficult to judge how much is enough (especially in a country without breathalysers) so better not to drink at all.

We have had drink drive laws in the UK since 1965 and the punishment is severe – a mandatory 12 month ban, a fine of up to £5,000 (£1 = 31 Birr) and a criminal conviction. In fact it has been estimated that the real average cost of a ban to an individual (with increased insurance, possible job loss etc.) is about £50,000. Fatalities in the UK, at about 2,000 every year, are now a quarter of those in 1980. 12% of those cases are drink related.

But aside from the legal aspect, there has been a moral shift in UK in attitudes towards drink driving – it is now seen as a shameful thing to do. The concept of a designated driver is now also routinely used in the UK. But there is a need for others to respect this role – and not, for example, to offer them a drink. And all of us should refuse to go in a vehicle where we know a driver has had too much to drink: we all need to contribute to making it a shameful thing to do, here in Ethiopia as well as in the UK.

Ethiopia’s traffic fatalities are equitable with the UK in absolute terms. But this does not reflect the far fewer vehicles on the road – for each road user Ethiopia has one of the worst records in the world. (68 deaths annually per 10,000 vehicles and four times as many injuries – 20% are children.) It has been referred to as a “neglected epidemic”.

I know that dealing with this is a very high priority for the Federal Police. There are no statistics to indicate what proportion of these fatalities are related to alcohol (chat/qat consumption is a big problem too if combined with driving). But the majority (some 78%) of crashes are caused by driver error, and alcohol must play a part in some of these. And this may be expected to increase without corrective action – as Ethiopia sees more vehicles, better roads and more disposable income to spend on alcohol.

Diageo’s work to promote responsible drinking goes beyond this. There are other problem areas related to irresponsible drinking – it has implications for example, for healthcare, domestic violence and family economies. But not drinking and driving is a good place to start with awareness raising and one which should bring important benefits for Ethiopia if people heed this crucial advice. Well done Diageo, for another valuable first!

1 comment on “Taking the Pledge

  1. An impressive first, importnat to save lives…it is a highly ignored issue , but that can easily be managed with small changes…until we come to a point where checks & penalities are enforced (like mobile phones and seat belts) let us take our own inidvidial initiatives…would like to hear and see more of the campaign

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