In the state that takes pride in its “Patiala Peg”, drunk driving kills almost 23 persons every month. Drunk driving offences, however, remain grossly underreported in Punjab. Reason: Lack of equipment and shortage of traffic cops. Also, the cash-strapped state heavily depends on revenue from the booming liquor business.
For around 40 lakh vehicles plying on state’s roads daily, the traffic police have just 125 alcometers or breath-analysers.
According to government data, alcohol consumption resulted in 442 road crashes, leaving 277 persons dead and injuring 261 in 2014. Similarly, in 2013, of 4,588 road crash fatalities reported, 1,711 (37%) were either due to drunk driving or speeding. Police, however, booked only 0.6% of violators for these two offences.
“Actually, not even one person per district is booked/challaned for drunk driving or speeding in the state,” claims Navdeep Asija, Punjab’s traffic adviser, appointed by the high court.
Police, on the other hand, claim that tipsy drivers were on their radar. “Traffic police are working with dedication at night hours. Special nakas are set up to check drunk drivers. Strict action is taken against the offenders,” claims Amritsar police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh.
According to doctors and experts, no matter how alert we think we are, alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgment, depth of perception, as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely.
A study conducted by University of Texas, San Antonio, reveals that people who have been drinking respond between 15% and 25% slower than when they are sober. This slowed reaction time is often the cause of accidents. Judgment is also quickly affected by alcohol. Even a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.02% can impair a person’s judgment.
Apart from lack of alcometers, the state is also grappling with shortage of traffic police personnel. In Punjab, there are eight traffic police personnel per lakh population in sharp contrast to about 60 traffic police personnel deployed against per lakh population in Chandigarh.
Highway vends major problem
Most accidents on nearly 1,700-km network of national highways in the state that claimed near 1,500 lives last year are attributed to the presence of liquor vends along the road. The matter is under the scanner of Punjab and Haryana high court after a petition filed by Chandigarh-based NGO Arrive Safe Society.
On November 19, an affidavit submitted by Anurag Verma, excise and taxation commissioner, Punjab, in the high court said “none of the 386 liquor vends along the national highways were visible and accessible from the road. “All these liqour vends are still on highways. The state government has given a strange statement that these vends are neither visible nor accessible. I wonder how this magic has happened. In reality, these liquor vends do booming business,” says Harman Singh Sidhu, president of Arrive Safe.
442 - road accidents took place due to drunk driving in Punjab in 2014
277 - people were killed in these accidents
40 - lakh vehicles ply on Punjab roads daily
125 - alcometers available
2,200 - traffic cops in Punjab
10 lakh - traffic challans issued across state in 2014
5,688 - challans issued for drunk driving and speeding