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Santucci makes drive for safety

Anthony Santucci (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Anthony Santucci is on a mission to change Bermudians’ attitude towards alcohol.

Drunk driving has become a massive problem on Bermuda’s roads and at this time of the year — the upcoming New Year’s Eve being a prime example — it worsens. It’s estimated that 110 of the 158 people (70 per cent) who have died on the roads since 2000 did so because of drugs and alcohol.

Reports on Magistrates’ Court cases by The Royal Gazette also indicate that alcohol and other drugs, combined with speed, have been the most significant causes of road accidents. But the Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse (CADA) executive director — the charity’s only full-time employee — is doing his level best to reverse that trend.

Mr Santucci, a Warwick resident, devotes his time and energy to encouraging responsible alcohol behaviour.

“It really is about changing Bermuda’s culture towards alcohol and making a positive change in that relationship,” Mr Santucci said. “We don’t need to lose 110 lives because of drinking and driving. If you are going to go out, always have alternative means — bus, cab, a designated driver — always have a safe way of getting home.

“By all means come out, have a good time and get home safe — don’t die because of it.

“Think of all the misery, the heartache, think of all the people you are leaving behind.”

Police spokesman Dwayne Caines agreed that culturally Bermuda needed to change its attitude towards alcohol.

“Everyone must be committed to safety,” he said.

“Always have a designated driver and do not let your friends drive if they have been drinking.

“If we see one of our peers or friends consuming alcohol, we have to be strong enough to take away their keys and provide options for those who choose not to drink or who are designated drivers.”

One of the ways CADA is tackling the problem of drunk driving is through their “Let us Drive” programme, which has taken home 11,865 partygoers since it began in May 2007.

This is a free, late-night transportation service that runs every Saturday morning, between 3.15am and 3.45am, from outside the LOM building on Reid Street.

“The fact that almost 12,000 young adults have used the Let us Drive programme really validates it to us, and our sponsors, the importance of that sort of programme,” Mr Santucci said.

“If people have an alternate means to get home safely they will use it.”

CADA was founded in 1974 by two men from Alcoholics Anonymous, who wanted to speak anonymously on the issues regarding alcohol and the struggles that families have in this regard, as well as the overall impact of alcohol abuse on the community.

Mr Santucci was asked to sit on the board of the charity after attending a focus group on the issue of drinking and driving.

He was working as a food and beverage manager at The Fairmont Southampton at the time.

“The message made sense as I am no different from any other Bermudian — I have alcoholics on the left side and on the right side of my family,” he said. “I know a lot of people that abuse alcohol and this just seemed like a no-brainer.

“Alcohol doesn’t care what colour you are, what social economic status you are, what country you are from. If you abuse it, it will take you down.”

In an attempt to tackle other issues relating to alcohol, such as underage drinking, the charity established the “Life Skills” programme.

The school programme gives young people the skills to deal with alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and gang related issues.

CADA also runs TIPS — a responsible alcohol sales and service training programme — and the charity has fought for sobriety checks and mandatory carding.

But while Mr Santucci agrees that progress has been made, he acknowledges that there is still a long way to go.

“It’s hard changing a culture and I appreciate that it’s hard, as I’ve been at the forefront of this particular component for almost a decade. But what makes it even more frustrating for me is not being given the tools to actually assist in fixing this fixable problem.”

He said that the TIPS regulations have not gone through Parliament, despite having been drafted three years ago.

“This is a measurable problem that can be fixed with easy, measurable outcomes.

“I didn’t think I would be sitting here eight years later still having this argument, still fighting with policymakers to do the right thing.”

In his role as executive director, Mr Santucci works tirelessly to find funding and to spread the charity’s message in new and innovative ways.

Ahead of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Mr Santucci added “we have partnered with Alshante Foggo, who has an Instagram page with 20,800 followers, to get the don’t drink and drive message out”.

They are hoping to reach between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals this way. He said that they will also be utilising Rejon Tucker and his WhatsApp component in the same way. The charity also uses Facebook to spread their message.

Despite his hard work Mr Santucci insists that he is not a hero. “It’s the two guys who started this organisation in 1974 with a vision that we wanted to make a positive change in Bermuda’s relationship towards alcohol.

“I just happen to be the individual in 2014 who carries on that message”.

• Further information and donations can be made at www.cada.bm