India becoming stricter about blood alcohol limits
If you’ve driven after a couple of drinks and live in India, you’ve probably had no fear of the cops putting you behind bars even though India has one of the lowest legal tolerance towards drinking – just 0.03 percent of BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is allowed in the blood. Unfortunately, few drivers are put to the test.
But of late, one city, Mumbai, has woken up. It has started catching drunk drivers (drive started 20th June). For the first time in history, Mumbai cops are accosting perfectly respectable people and putting them in the slammer for a couple of weeks! Not just that, licenses are being suspended for a period of six months. Earlier, even if someone was caught, offenders got away lightly, on bail, and eventually, a fine. Even though there is a provision to detain people and suspend licenses. But now there is concerted drive to catch those who drink and drive and tipplers in Mumbai are in a state of panic as they’ve been taken by surprise.
Well, accidents have halved in Mumbai in the past couple of months. It is known fact drunk driving is the cause at least half of all road accidents in those countries where drunk driving laws are lax!
The world’s limits
The world has some real stringent limits on drinking while driving, although not all the limits are as low as India’s! The difference is that they take it very seriously and the punishment becomes heavier with each repeat offense. We don’t even have a database of those caught drunk while driving so there is no question of doing that!
Here is just a sample of what happens around the world (most information from the wiki) :
In Canada, drive with over just .08 percent (BAC) and you may not be able to drive for one whole year after that, and plus there is a fine and this is just for a first time offender!
In America too the limit is 0.08 percent (although it varies in some states) and if caught, you can get a year in prison and licences can be suspended on the spot. Interestingly, there are lower legal limits for commercial drivers.
In Sweden, drive with more than than 0.02% (BAC) and you can get up 6 months in jail and if you have as much as 0.10% percent off you go to jail for 2 long years.
In Germany, the limit is 0.05 percent (BAC), but if you are caught for rash driving as well, then the limit decreases to 0.03 percent.
And how do you like this…in Japan you cannot drink and drive at all!
At the other extreme, there are countries which have no limits on drinking while driving, countries like Comoros, Congo and Ethiopia.
Some countries in the middle-east like Kuwait, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, do not allow their citizens to drink at all.
How does BAC translate into an actual number of drinks?
Well, I would think 1-2, or just maybe one. What, one drink?? Well, how well you assimilate alcohol depends a lot on whether you are a regular drinker and when you had that drink before sitting behind the wheel. Roughly speaking, if you start from sober and have two standard drinks, your BAC will increase by about 0.05% (thats already over what is allowed in India). And every drink per hour after that keeps the level up to this much. So perhaps you could have just one drink and drive if you live in India, but best not to take that chance as your BOC depends on your weight, gender, and well, overall on your ability to absorb alcohol. As it says in the wiki:
…neither BAC nor the number of drinks consumed are necessarily accurate indicators of the level of impairment. Tolerance to alcohol varies from one person to another, and can be affected by such factors as genetics, adaptation to chronic alcohol use, and synergistic effects of drugs.
No wonder so many people break the DUI (Driving under the Influence) laws…they feel fit and fine after a drink or two! Even in developed countries this is the case. That is why controlling offenders has become such a headache in those countries where social drinking is far more common than in India.
Alcolocks might become the norm in Sweden
Some countries have decided that enough is enough and are planning to take preventive action. Sweden is likely to fit all new cars with an ‘alcolock’ by 2012. There will be an ‘alcokey’ in which ‘drivers must blow into’ to start the vehicle.
In India we have our very own desi alcolock! Electrical engineering students from Chennai’s MGR University recently made a device which smells booze from one and a half meters away and then simply shuts off the ignition. This device will be modified before it is marketed though.
Alcolocks are a must for commercial vehicles. I doubt where any kind of strict checking will happen on our highways at least. The majority of fatal accidents in India involve commercial vehicles.
At a time when developed countries are thinking of lowering their BAC limits, fitting alcolocks, creating alcohol detection system for cars, checking for driving under the influence of drugs, its time we took a leap forward too. Time for other Indian cities to become as strict as Mumbai. Increasing affluence is getting more cars out there on to our congested roads, and more and more people are able to afford alcohol…so the problem of drinking and driving is just going to increase!
In the meantime let us hope that the Mumbai drive is not a flash in the pan.
Related Reading: Drunk Driving a major cause of road accidents
Technology to help police in cracking down on traffic offenders
What is the solution to India’s high accident rate?
Jail works as a deterrent to stop traffic offenders
(Photo is of the police demonstrating blood alcohol testing is from the Mumbai Mirror)