Drunk drivers are a Delhi policeman’s nightmare
Delhi Traffic Police officers say that “hostility” from drunk drivers is one of many reasons why just over 100 motorists were prosecuted for the offence everyday on an average last year in the national capital.Updated: Feb 11, 2019 13:13 IST
“Blow into the alcometer,” the traffic policeman’s order was loud and clear. The SUV driver pretended to blow, but actually held his breath towards the end. The policeman knew just how to deal with the situation. “Loudly count till 10,” was the next command.
In the next few seconds, the policeman had scientific evidence of the motorist having 105 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, more than thrice the permissible limit. But what followed next was just what the policeman at the picket near Connaught Place fears every evening.
The policeman had to fight off threats of action and repeated phone calls asking him to let go of the driver.
This was a relatively much easier situation for the policeman to handle.
Traffic police personnel in the national capital say they are frequently threatened, sometimes assaulted or even mowed down by motorists when they attempt to prosecute drunk driving.
On better days, a motorist snatches away their alcometer as was seen at Barakhamba Road last November.
Traffic Police officers say that “hostility” from drunk drivers is one of many reasons why just over 100 motorists were prosecuted for the offence everyday on an average last year in the national capital.
The 37,188 prosecutions for drunk driving in 2018 were 11% more than the 33,343 previous year, but road safety experts say these figures are just the “tip of an iceberg”.
“The drunk driving checking is not as frequent and widespread given how rampant the menace is in Delhi. A driver’s judgement is badly impaired after drinking and he is just lucky to reach his destination without harming anyone,” says Piyush Tewari, founder of NGO SafeLife Foundation.
As per a study in America, an increase of Blood Alcohol Concentration by 0.02% doubles the relative risk of a vehicle crash among 16-20 year old males. That risk increases to 52 times when the BAC is between 0.08% and 0.10%.
In India, motorists are not allowed to drive if the alcohol content is found to be over 30 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
According to a late last year’s survey of 5,000 Delhi motorists who drink, 3,605 (72.1%) of them admitted to drinking after driving. The survey, which was conducted by NGO ‘Community Against Drunken Driving’, found that 1,768 of those drivers said they regularly took to the wheel after drinking while 1,837 said they drove under the influence of alcohol only occasionally.
More importantly, 78.6% of the respondents said they were not checked for drunk driving in the last six months of the survey.
“The enforcement agencies do not take the issue as seriously as it should be. They view it as a seasonal traffic offence which happens during festivals like Holi, Diwali and new years,” says Prince Singhal, the NGO’s founder.
According to the 2017 data put out by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, drunk driving caused 124 mishaps in Delhi and left 24 people dead and 126 injured. Across the country, drunk driving was the reason for 14,071 mishaps which killed 4,776 people and injured 11,776.
But Tewari dismisses the data saying that most drunk drivers get away after causing an accident, leaving investigators clueless about the condition of the driver.
“Delhi is a hub of hit and run cases. Many motorists abandon their vehicles after a mishap. When they are caught after a day or two, there is no evidence of drunk driving,” says Tewari.
The act of fleeing after a mishap or fighting with the police after getting caught for drunk driving arises from the relatively tough penalties for drunken driving, says Alok Kumar, joint commissioner of police (Delhi Traffic Police).
“Drunk driving is one of five traffic violations which lead to seizure of driving license for three months. No motorist wants to part with their license. I haven’t heard of one drunk driver who accepted the penalties without fighting with the traffic police on duty,” says Kumar.
What also scares the motorists is the possible arrest and imprisonment up to six months, impounding of their vehicles and penalty of Rs 2,000. “The repeat offenders are the ones who are usually the most aggressive because they can be jailed up to three years and fined Rs 3,000,” says JCP Kumar.
Out on the roads, the traffic police officers say they not only face a host of excuses and tricks by offenders, but also violent behaviour that risks the lives of the general public.
“Each of these drunk drivers knows some influential person or the other. It becomes very uncomfortable for us to fend them off. In case the driver doesn’t know someone who can bail him out, he will try to take a U-turn or speed away, without bothering about its consequences,” says a traffic police inspector in west Delhi’s Rajouri Garden.
JCP Kumar says that after drinking most drivers have a “false sense of bravado” and believe they can drive better.
The CADD study found that one in every four of its respondents believed they drive better after drinking.
First Published: Feb 11, 2019 12:39 IST