If Nooria Haveliwala and Alistair Pereira had employed drivers, nine people would have been alive today.
A drunk Haveliwala mowed down a policeman and another person at Marine Lines on January 30, while Pereira ran over seven construction workers at Carter Road on November 12, 2006.
In 2006, Mumbai witnessed 651 fatal accidents and 2,146 that caused severe injuries. In 2007, till July, there were 50 major accidents, over 65 per cent of them involving drunken drivers.
Alarmed, the traffic police started the anti-drink driving campaign in June 2007, which, they say, brought down the accident figures to half the following year.
Officers said that even a moment’s lapse of concentration behind the wheel can lead to an accident, and studies show that alcohol can turn even cautious drivers into aggressive ones.
“The campaign helped us curb drink driving considerably but the problem has not been eradicated. Changing people’s mindsets is a long and tedious process. It cannot be done in two or three years, but has to be a continuous effort,” said Ashok Takalkar, assistant commissioner of police (traffic).
Officers felt a fine of merely Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 and a short jail term are not enough of a deterrent. “Drivers think they can get away by just paying up. A man driving a car worth Rs 20 lakh won’t care about a small fine,” said Takalkar. “Stronger punishment is essential since the number of arrests is not falling.”
On the night of January 30 alone, the police arrested 151 people for drink driving, which is as high as when the campaign started.
“A prison term ranging from a day to two years is imposed in such cases. But conviction takes time and the driver can be back on the roads the next day,” said an officer requesting anonymity.
Lawyers urged an increase in the fine and jail term. And on Tuesday, the state Home Department proposed to the Centre an amendment in the Motor Vehicles Act to increase the minimum jail term for drink driving to six months.
“Rash driving is aggravated if the driver is also drunk. Such cases are on the rise. The law is not a deterrent for such offenders,” said Majeed Memon, a senior criminal lawyer. “There is a need for enhanced punishment and non-bailable charges.”
Nitish Pawaskar, a high court advocate, said: “Merely increasing fines is not enough. A longer jail term might be a deterrent as owners of plush cars might be ready to pay a fine of even
Rs 10,000, but they would not want to spend even one night in jail.”