Life after drunk crashes with Caro Smit

2018-06-20 06:01
Caro Smit wearing a shirt with her son’s face on it. Smit’s son Chas was killed after he attempted to cross a road and was hit by a car. PHOTO: sourced

Caro Smit wearing a shirt with her son’s face on it. Smit’s son Chas was killed after he attempted to cross a road and was hit by a car. PHOTO: sourced

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LOSING her child to a drunken driving incident 13 years ago left Caro Smit with two options. She could wallow in her grief and sadness or she could stand up and inspire change. She chose the latter.

September 18, 2005 is a day etched into Smit’s memory as the day she lost her musician son, Chas Smit, who became a victim of a drunken driver. This day sparked what would later become South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD), an organisation started by Smit in January 2006.

“Life changed dramatically for me and my family after my son was killed. It was like being amputated because my child was part of me,” said Smit.

The incident saw Smit change drastically , saying it made her become a very straight forward person. “Wherever I go, people judge me and look at me as if I am a difficult person because of my stance on the matter of drunk driving” she says.

Whenever she gets into her vehicle and onto the road, Smit says that she finds it hard to trust motorists.

Smit, a psychiatric social worker, alcohol/drug counsellor and educator, left her previous job in order to run the SADD in the hope of putting an end to drunk driving, protecting families from needless deaths and to make a difference.

“I want to make sure that those who drive drunk face the full might of the law but, most importantly, I want to educate and support victims of drunk crashes,” she said.

One of her focal tasks since establishing SADD has been supporting families which she admitted can be difficult sometimes as every time she steps back into court to show the families support it is as if she is being traumatised again.

“At the moment I am in court with a woman who was involved in a drunk crash. She is an engineer who now has paralysis due to a drunk driver who should have taken a taxi home after a rugby match but instead has now jeopardised this woman’s entire life because he thought he could drive,” said Smit.

Smit said that the night her son died sparked something in her and that she will continue to fight for the families who have been plagued throughout South Africa by drunk crashes.

“South Africa needs to become stricter on drunk crashes because these so called mistakes have major ramifications on the lives of the victims and those responsible for these drunk crashes must go to jail,” she said.

OBJECTIVES OF SADD:

• Create awareness about the drinking and driving problem in South Africa and work with the law, and others, to pressurise the government into implementing proper and prohibitive law. Responsible driving generally only comes about because people are afraid of the legal and financial repercussions of their actions.

• Request frequent random breath alcohol testing (RBT) all year.

• Request that drivers licenses be suspended on a sliding scale as per the National Road Traffic Act . First offences — six months; second offence — five years; third or subsequent offences — 10 years or more.

• Recommend that the professional drivers’ blood alcohol level (BAL) be changed from .02g per 100ml, to .00g per 100ml.

• Test professional drivers routinely i.e. truck, bus and taxi drivers.

• Ask for the introduction of a graduated sentencing and fining system that charges offenders according to the number of drinks a person is over the legal limit (similar to the fining system that has been implemented with speeding.)

• Implementation of referral of drunk drivers and severely intoxicated trauma patients for substance abuse treatment. This should include information about units of alcohol and the effect of alcohol on driving skills.

• To publish the names and blood alcohol level/breath alcohol content, (BAL/BAC) of offenders in newspapers around the country.

• Request the government appoints more policemen to assist with drunk-driving issues, including charging drunk drivers, accompanying them for blood tests, and taking statements after car accidents.

• Request the government have traffic officers on duty 24 hours a day, and especially after 12 pm on Friday and Saturday nights when many accidents happen. Increase the number of traffic officers.

• Provide, via websites and in other ways, information to the public about alcohol, and especially the effects of alcohol in relation to driving, and about drunk driving court cases. Offer more talks, articles, posters on drinking and driving / effects on driving skills, units of Alcohol, etc.

• Suggest that no open containers of alcohol should be allowed in a vehicle.

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