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Drunken driving not a problem, but disease

An interview with Prince Singhal, social activist and founder, CADD on drunken driving in Delhi

delhi Updated: Oct 04, 2011 00:22 IST

An interview with Prince Singhal, social activist and founder, CADD

How big is the problem of drunken driving in Delhi?

It is not so much of a problem as it is a disease, that too of the magnitude of cancer and AIDS. In the next five years, drunken driving will be the third largest cause of death in the country. It kills over a lakh people in India every year and, of the total number of people who die, more than 60% are youth. Though people are becoming more aware of the problem than they used to be, as per our estimate, one in every fourth Delhi driver still routinely drinks and drives.

Though they maintain that drunken driving is a problem, the Delhi Police claim they have been able to rein in the problem, at least relatively.

Whatever their claim may be, it’s a classic case of too little too late. Not only is there a laxity in the enforcement of the law against drunken driving, the law itself is toothless. How does paying a fine of Rs 2000 justify killing someone on the road, even if by mistake? And such crimes are not seasonal. They happen every day, but there is a lack of will on the police’s part as far as curbing the problem is concerned.

Where are the police tripping? Is it because of a toothless law or the lack of will?

It’s a mix of both. Not only should the monetary fines be doubled, there should be compulsory jail terms for anyone who is caught. The offenders’ licence should be suspended for months altogether to teach them a lesson and the crime should be made a non-bailable offence. Those who drive under the influence of alcohol despite knowing it’s a crime should be treated like murderers if they end up killing someone. Besides, the police are not properly equipped to seriously combat the problem.

What do you think is the way forward?

We need a tough, uniform law for the country. Moreover, one can't expect an ill-trained traffic officer, tired from his 15-hour duty, to be vigilant enough to check drunken driving. There should be a special task force to check the menace and the proceeds from the collected fines should be used to create awareness against the practice.