Drunk driving is a major cause of accidents in India
There are many causes of or road accidents ( which are very high in India as compared to other countries) but a major cause is drunken driving.
First let us take a look at some statistics from the website of The Department of Road Transport and Highway, Government of India:
As it says here:
Incidentally, India holds the dubious distinction of registering the highest number of road accidents in the world. According to the experts at the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NTPRC) the number of road accidents in India is three times higher than that prevailing in developed countries. The number of accidents for 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries.
Drinking and driving
Drunk drivers are more liable to make errors and more liable to get into a rage and drive rashly. Drunk drivers may be excellent drivers otherwise, but It is a proven fact that people’s personalities change when drunk. People get more aggressive. Research in the West has proven this, that drunk drivers exhibit aggressive driving behavior like going too close to the vehicle in front of them and applying more force when breaking. They are also become more reckless, unable to see the consequences of their actions.
We know what happened in young Alistair’s case. He mowed down 12 people on Carter Road a few weeks ago. It turns out that he has a fake licence. The media is making a hue and cry about it. Tell me, do you think that if Alistair had a genuine licence he would have driven more carefully? Or is the problem with his drinking and driving?
So while being strict about issuing licences will put a stop to those who can’t drive properly, it won’t stop drunken or irresponsible drivers.
Update, 8th Dec: A better, more stringent punishment for rash drivers?
The news is that the government is proposing to confiscate the licence of anyone who fails the breath analyser test. That’s good news. Right now the penalty of drunken driving in India is a fine of Rs 2000-3000 and a prison term ranging from six months to two years. However, as conviction takes time, the driver can be back on the road the very next day as it is a bailable offence. In fact, the driving licences of all those who drive recklessly should be confiscated. Even if one kills people on the road one can get bail. And if one is powerful enough, get away without any punishment.
Update on our conviction rates (information from TOI, April 07):
India has one of the highest accident rates but one of the lowest conviction rates. Just take Maharashtra. In 2005, 214 criminal cases were lodged for causing death by negligence by driving, but the conviction rate was only 9 per cent. Court delays make it easy for witnesses to disappear, or hostile. It is easy for the convicted (who are out on bail) to bribe witnesses.
Also, punishment for drunken driving is light. Under the Motor Vehicles Act you get a six month prision sentence or a fine of Rs 2000/- but hardly anyone ever goes to prison as Rs 2000/- is a paltry sum. Interestingly, like many other laws in our country our laws governing drunken driving are ancient. They date back to the nineteenth century! A time where people used to travel by horse driven carriages!
And at times culprits get away when police attempt to charge (in the absence of a suitable law) the driver under the law of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” (Section 304-II of the Indian Penal Code) but proving this charge is almost impossible as the prosecution has to show that the driver had the “intention” to kill. Our driving laws are antiquated, from the time when there were hardly any cars on the road!
Related Reading: What is the solution to India’s high accident rate?
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