Opinion: A joint approach to tackling drinking and driving in Dominican Republic

A busy road in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by: Raúl Pérez / Presidencia República Dominicana / CC BY-NC-ND

In 2015, the World Health Organization status report on road safety listed the Dominican Republic as the number one country in the Americas — and the 15th worldwide — for the highest estimated rates of fatalities in road crashes, with 29.3 fatalities per 100,000 residents. The identified causes of these crashes included aggressive or distracted driving, speeding, helmets not being used while driving motorcycles, unsafe road infrastructure, and driving while intoxicated.

Insights informing IARD efforts

1. Reaching across perceived lines is making a difference. Working with our partners, we have succeeded in building an alliance of diverse stakeholders who, for the first time, are working together to combat harmful drinking. Achievements such as the memorandum are possible with persistence in finding common ground.

2. Building partnerships from scratch requires real dialogue and time. We believe in bringing an inclusive range of stakeholders to the table in our work to implement the commitments, laying the groundwork for joint efforts that can accelerate, and ultimately making a measurable difference in reducing harmful drinking.

3. Replicating documented best practices helps to leverage time and resources. Plans developed within the framework have been strengthened by insights from our work in other countries. Replicating best practices and tailoring programs for local context is proving to be an efficient, promising way to build programmatic infrastructure.

At the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, we embrace a whole-of-society approach and firmly believe in the benefit of cross-sector partnerships in combating the harmful use of alcohol. Our members have shown their commitment to setting standards for responsible alcohol production and marketing, and proactively support global action in areas such as under-age drinking, marketing codes, consumer information and labeling, engagement with retailers, and drinking and driving.

Our work with the Dominican Republic is a strong example of what can be achieved through a multisectoral approach. We recognized the need to support a long-term strategy to reduce fatalities and began working with a number of parties to implement a drinking and driving prevention initiative in the country. While the country has a law that prohibits driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, there was no legal maximum blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, for drivers.

The initiative brought together 35 government, law enforcement, and civil society stakeholders for a capacity-building workshop. Participants engaged in discussions with international road safety experts about police training, breath-testing devices, and interventions such as sobriety checkpoints. Everyone involved came from very different backgrounds and had very different views relating to alcohol misuse. Yet through discussion, participants agreed to prioritize work to establish clear legal BAC limits for drivers, and to combat drinking and driving. This regular dialogue made it possible to lay the groundwork to make a measurable difference in reducing harmful drinking.

“The work in the Dominican Republic demonstrates the effectiveness of public private partnerships, where government, civil society, and the private sector came together to discuss, share expertise, and create a joint strategy that would lead to improvements in road safety.”

— Alberto Bouroncle, director of programs, IARD

After conducting a thorough situation assessment, a joint strategy to address road safety was developed, particularly combating drinking and driving, with the aim of contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 3.6 of halving the number of road-related deaths and disabilities by 2020.

The program supported Santo Domingo’s police officers by seeking to change drivers’ attitudes to alcohol consumption. On the back of this approach, IARD signed a memorandum of understanding between the ministry of health and beer, wine, and spirits producers.

This critical milestone marked the first formalized agreement to work together to improve public health.

We also worked with our partners to design a nationwide road safety program to raise overall awareness across the country and increase law enforcement officials’ capacity to intervene through regular roadside breath testing. In addition, we presented our plans for a designated driver program, shown to be effective in Trinidad and Tobago, to the memorandum committee.

The “Who will be driving you?” campaign in the Dominican Republic used a combination of social media and conventional messaging platforms to reinforce the dangers of drinking and driving and the critical role of designated drivers.

The results so far

After three years of work in the Dominican Republic, we are witnessing positive changes that are already having an impact on road safety.

  • In 2016, IARD signed a memorandum with the ministry of health that included collaboration in road safety improvements.

  • In early 2017, a new transit and transportation law was approved by the parliament, including a maximum BAC for drivers of 0.5 grams per liter, 0.2 gr/l for motorcycle drivers, and 0.0 for professional drivers.

  • In mid-2017, the president created the Presidential Task Force for Transit and Road Safety, which would lay the basis for the creation of a centralized road safety agency, INTRANT, by the end of that year.

After the creation of INTRANT, an agreement was signed that focused on increased awareness and enforcement of the new transit law. This was a critical step in building the foundations for the government to own and ensure the continuity of the program.

These examples represent the noticeable shift in the way sectors are working together; in this case, a joint approach has helped to accelerate progress. As part of this work, IARD has supported the establishment of a maximum BAC limit for drivers and proposed high-visibility sobriety checkpoints.

Q&A: Why beer, wine, and spirits producers need to be at the NCDs table

When thinking of the key players working to address noncommunicable diseases, beer, wine, and spirits producers don't immediately come to mind. Henry Ashworth, CEO of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking tells Devex why that should change.

"The program carried out by IARD in the Dominican Republic was based on the effective coordination of different public and private stakeholders, where dialogue between the government and the private sector was of key importance, technical assistance and resources were provided, and where coordinated efforts paved the way for the achievement of common goals,” said Tobias Crespo, congressman of the Dominican Republic.

The work in Dominican Republic demonstrates the effectiveness of public private partnerships where government, civil society, and the private sector came together to discuss, share expertise, and create a joint strategy that would lead to improvements in road safety. The fact that there is now a maximum BAC for drivers, a centralized agency for road safety, and built capacity for law enforcement, bodes well for the continuity of this program for many, many years to come.

You have 2 free articles left
Log in or sign-up to unlock all of the free news on Devex.

About the author

  • Alberto bouroncle profile

    Alberto Bouroncle

    Alberto Bouroncle is vice president of public affairs at IARD and is in charge of the development of relationships and alliances with a variety of stakeholders and capacity building, with special interest in Latin America and the Caribbean. He has been involved in substance use research, policy development, and program implementation since 2000. Prior to joining IARD, he worked for LTG Associates, in a variety of projects, including the evaluation of a substance abuse and mental health services administration project to provide substance abuse treatment for the latino community in the Washington D.C. area.