Mumbai shows the way in curbing drink driving | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai shows the way in curbing drink driving

Drink driving cases in Mumbai rose from 1,022 in 2006 to 12,765 in 2007, the year the campaign started. This week, the Mumbai Police released its drink driving figures for Christmas, showing they had fallen to just 31 on a night of revelry

editorials Updated: Dec 28, 2017 07:45 IST
Police in Mumbai have set an example of how to curb drink driving drastically by effectively penalising offenders
Police in Mumbai have set an example of how to curb drink driving drastically by effectively penalising offenders (Bachchan Kumar/ HT Photo)

A decade ago, the Mumbai Police launched a mission to curb drink driving on the city’s streets. It was a late realisation considering two big cases – one allegedly involving actor Salman Khan, for which he was later acquitted, and the other involving 21-year-old Bandra resident Alistair Pareira, for which he was convicted – had claimed eight innocent lives in a high-profile, headline-grabbing manner. Compared to most of India’s other big cities, it was still an early wake-up call. Police pickets suddenly increased on Mumbai’s arterial roads. The breathalyser became a common policeman’s implement — almost as ubiquitous as the lathi. People driving towards and away from prominent pubs started telling stories of how they were stopped, how their licences were confiscated, how telling the policemen how influential they were didn’t work, and even how some of them were made to spend a night in jail to sleep off their indiscretion.

The result was instantaneous. People started leaving cars and bikes at home and taking cabs and autos even to pubs that were just around the corner. It helped that Mumbai had a robust public transport system, and the habits of drinking but not driving, or not drinking when driving, started to spread for fear of retribution. Drink driving cases in Mumbai rose from 1,022 in 2006 to 12,765 in 2007, the year the campaign started. This week, the Mumbai Police released its drink driving figures for Christmas, showing they had fallen to just 31 on a night of revelry. This is an instance of anecdotes supporting police statistics. The numbers are down not because of inaction or improper recording of transgressions; they illustrate a changing mindset.

Hurtling down the road in a powerful metal box demands great responsibility. The driver has a weapon in their hands, which can destroy lives if wielded callously. An example of this, if one was needed, is how terror groups have made ramming vehicles into crowds their latest modus operandi. Most cities across India are guilty of treating what is the gravest and potentially most lethal traffic crime with a strange nonchalance.

In Delhi, there are police pickets, and some breathalysers are brandished occasionally. But anecdotal evidence suggests that despite the statistics (28,006 people were caught for drink driving in 2016), the deterrent is not strong enough and the execution not robust enough. The first response of the police, unlike Mumbai for instance, is not to take offenders in custody but to charge fines and let them go. The Delhi Police, and forces in other cities, must emulate the Mumbai Police’s efficiency on this front. And though it may hurt to hear this given the rivalry between the two cities, perhaps the people of Delhi can learn a thing or two from their friends in Mumbai.