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Port Moresby
February 28, 2021
Mi Ripot

Drink Driving in PNG: Plain Stupidity or Cultural Norm?

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Finding reliable and accurate information regarding drink driving in Papua New Guinea is hard to come by, but the man on the street will tell you that getting behind the wheel whilst under the influence of alcohol continues to be a rampant problem.

It’s a problem evident across the country, something we continue to see day in, day out. And perhaps most alarmingly, drink driving often continues to be an act undertaken by those who we rely on to enforce the law. 

So with that in mind, how are we best to go about curbing this ongoing and potentially life threatening practice, a practice many see as being ingrained in the culture of Papua New Guinea?

Just last Thursday afternoon, Port Moresby resident Nelson Sukwianomb was picking up his son from school in East Boroko. The street in which the school lies turns into a one-way street both in the morning and afternoon in order to allow parents to pick up and drop off their children.

At around 3.45pm, a heavily intoxicated driver and his two passengers came careering down Vaival Avenue towards the front of the school. Upon seeing the other vehicles travelling in the opposite direction, the driver slammed on his brakes and narrowly avoided a collision with both parents and children.

“Angry parents approached the vehicle, along with the school’s security, only to find that the driver was an off-duty police officer [in uniform]” Nelson said.

In another incident over the weekend, this time involving members of the general public, a vehicle belonging to the Wabag District Administration in Enga Province crashed into a brick wall.

The car was being driven by a heavily intoxicated man, and had four passengers on board with him. Two people died upon arrival at Enga Provincial Hospital, while the remaining three remain in a critical condition.

It’s easy to think that you’re more than alright to get behind the wheel after a few drinks. We’ve all been there. But it’s just as easy to forget that you’re endangering the lives of others, and not just that of your own.

Earlier this year, Executive Director of the Road Safety Council Nelson Terema released details advising that Papua New Guinea was ranked “forth in the world for the highest rate of road accidents.”

Alarming figures, with the World Health Organisation further highlighting the danger that comes from drink driving with their data showing that the percentage of road related deaths caused by alcohol here in PNG sits at 25%.

How we go about educating people to not drink and drive will take a conscientious effort from a number of parties. But it’s something that we must address if we are to ensure the safety of not only ourselves, but our fellow road users. 

Information submitted by Nelson Sukwianomb. 

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