Monday, October 31, 2005

Trains, Planes, and the banning of alcohol

(Press Association)

So the latest proposals to ban alcohol on public transport has been slated by opposition parties!To be honest I can sympathise with the criticism in some cases, but the whole crux of the matter is not so much to do with being a 'nanny state', but about personal and individual responsibility to others. When I worked at the motorway service station, just outside Baldock. I had a couple who once came into the coffee shop I helped run and asked if we sold any wine.
I said no, they asked why, I said it was because the company did not want to be held liable for any possible drink-driving accidents. They muttered loudly about living in a 'nanny state', which in my mind is occasional shorthand for 'I want to do whatever I want, even though it involves behaving like a prize cretin and harming, possibly killing others.' I am pretty sure that victims of drink-driving accidents would like to hear a lecture about how unrighteous it is to be deprived from alcohol whilst travelling!
But what about trains, allowing for the fact that those asked for a glass of wine might have been the car passengers.
Well, I thought fellow blogger Jo Salmon put the case well for rail transport:

Having sat on many a train late at night when I’ve been forced to endure drunken abuse, I’m glad to hear the news that the government is planning a ban on passengers drinking alcohol on public transport.

Not long ago, I had to listen to a group of drunk men calling themselves “the rapists” and eyeing up and verbally harassing every woman in a skirt who had to misfortune to walk past them. I got a member of staff to have a word with them but there was nothing she could do, even though they sat there drinking and geting more drunk by the minute. Even having the right to stop them drinking would have made our journey that little bit more bearable.

I don’t think this will do much to stop binge-drinking, and it won’t prevent people from getting drunk before they get on a train, but it will mean they can’t get as drunk - and certainly not while I’m sitting just a few feet away from them.

I wonder how many Tories who have slammed Labour's proposals, have been on the receving end of this, or similar abusive behaviour by drunken yobs on public transport, where their sense of safety is thrown into doubt?
And aeroplanes! I have certainly always backed a ban on alcohol there. Who can recall this incident, or this incident, or even this incident? Where groups and individuals behaved in a stupid and irresponsible fashion and threatened the lives and safety of every individual on those planes!
I am an individual who loathes red tape, is not too impressed by interference from the state in everyday lives, but this isn't about 'living in a nanny state', this is about protecting the majority of people from individuals and groups who cannot control their alcohol intake and therefore themselves. If we accept the opinions of those who say this is 'nanny state' mentality, let us be consistent and stop the Christmas drink driving campaigns, and then maybe those campaigning against such 'busybodies' can be the ones who can explain to the people who have lost a child, husband, wife, parent etc.. that they gave the oppurtunity to the individual(s) who committed the act, so as to uphold the 'freedom of the individual', anotther truism phrase that is freely abused!
Maybe they would care to equate their 'libertarian' views with police reports and statistics as well.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you and Jo that offensive drunken behaviour on trains is unpleasant and often threatening, particularly to people travelling alone.

I completely disagree that the solution is to ban alcohol. You see - the problem is not alcohol. Most people (the vast majority) can have a couple of glasses of wine on the plane, or a beer or two on the train or whatever, and cause no problems at all apart from possibly a slight increase in the use of the toilet facilities. A rather small number of people drink more than they should and behave very badly. Those people are the problem - their behaviour is the actual thing you want to ban. You seem to be throwing out baby, bathwater and all the plumbing from the bathroom.

Punishments for being abusive and threatening whilst drunk are, let's be honest here, rather minimal. It takes for ever to get to court, and the offender ends up with a small fine which he pays at a fiver a week. That is where you should look for your solution to the problem of offensive and threatening behaviour.

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