Fine them, jail them or clip their wings by impounding their hyperactive wheels — but driving under the ‘influence’, it seems, is a habit that dies hard; if at all.
“It’s a huge problem,” admits Satyendra Garg, joint commissioner of police (traffic). “When we initially started drives against drunken driving, in early January this year, we used to prosecute 250-300 such drivers during random checking,” Garg recalled.
However, the traffic cops were to learn about the sheer magnitude of the menace the hard way over the next nine months. So far, more than 13,000 drivers, as opposed to nearly 8,000 last year, have been prosecuted and as many as 2,374 of those found driving under the influence of alcohol have been sent to jail for durations ranging from a day to above 10 days.
Jailing someone for driving drunk, police believe, is a seemingly drastic but a debatably essential step to curb this menace.
This belief comes in the light of traffic police’s estimates that more than 80% of 636 persons who lost their lives in hit-and-run cases till September 30 and a massive 90% of the 718 who got killed between 9pm and 8am were mowed down by drunk drivers — a time when police presence is thinnest.
“While the main reason for the 784 road accidents that occurred during the day were mainly speeding, red light jumping and dangerous driving, there isn’t much of a chasm between them and the 735 who lost their lives solely due to drunken driving at night,” admitted a senior traffic police officer.
Meanwhile, the police have not only suggested harsher penalties and compulsory jail terms for drunk drivers but have also identified over 400 watering holes, in areas like Khan Market, Vasant Vihar, Connaught Place, Bhikaji Kama Place and Chanakyapuri, to initiate surprise checks and catch them while the drivers are still drunk.However, there’s still a lot, which activists feel, should be done. "One can’t expect an ill-trained traffic officer, tired from his 15-hour duty, to be vigilant and motivated enough to effectively check drunken driving. We need a core group of specialists for that," said Prince Singhal, social activist and founder of Campaign Against Drinking and Driving (CADD).