Their wheels may not be blood-stained thus far this year, but more than 500 cases of underage driving — in a substantial number of which the errant driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol — are detected by the Traffic Police every year.
More than 87 cases of underage driving were detected by the traffic police between July 31 and September 30 this year. The problem is as pronounced in areas such as south Delhi’s Kalkaji, Sarita Vihar and Vasant Vihar as it is in outer Delhi’s Bawana and Kanjawala.
“Last year, we had fined just 23,623 persons for allowing unauthorised driving. This year, the number has jumped to 32,198 cases till the end of September 30,” said Satyendra Garg, joint commissioner of police (traffic).
Hundreds of such cases, however, go undetected every day due to reasons ranging from lack of police deployment to their socio-economic background.
Though it is impossible to put a finger on the exact number of such cases — a database isn’t maintained since minors cannot be prosecuted given their ‘juvenile’ status — senior police officers admit that out of a ‘sizeable majority’ of underage driving cases, more than half are those driving under the influence of alcohol.
“The trouble begins at home in more than 99% of these cases,” said an officer. “Minors start driving within the confines of their residential locality with the permission of their parents and are soon on the road, racing away to the nearest pub.” Their safety net and preferred ‘fall guy’, police believe, is the family driver who, in the event of an accident, takes the blame and even gets convicted if need be."The problem illustrates the need of a more reformed criminal justice system where the guilty are punished so that the punishment acts as an effective deterrent regardless of the social background of the offender," agreed Dr Nimesh Desai, head of department of psychiatry and the medical superintendent at the Institute of Human Behaviour and AlliedSciences.