Thrill-seekers in luxury cars or on high end bikes often kill people sleeping on pavements

Every now and then we come across a pair of wheels or two zipping across Bangalore's crowded roads at unimaginable speeds, often resulting in accidents and fatalities. In a city where over 2 lakh vehicles are added to the roads every year, these thrill-seekers — often in luxury cars or on high end bikes — sometimes end up killing hapless pedestrians and other road users.

The most recent incident, on March 13, allegedly involved a city socialite Mahi who was driving a Toyota Fortuner. Returning with a friend after a party, she is said to have lost control at a traffic junction in HRBR layout and run over five labourers sleeping on the pavement. One died and the others were grievously injured. The woman, believed to be in her 20s, is still evading the police.

The vehicle's registration number led the police to one Ravi who was in the car at the time of the accident. Ravi claimed that he did not know the woman very well and had only met her at the party that evening.

On February 10, Abdullah Haq, owner of the city's Empire chain of hotels, lost control of his vehicle and ran over Selvaraj, a daily wage labourer who was sleeping on the pavement at Kamaraj Road Junction. Selvaraj's leg was crushed. But Mr. Haq did not speed away. He shifted the injured man to a hospital and bore the expenses of treatment.

But the one incident in recent years that sparked outrage in the city involved another city socialite Karthik Somaiah. Returning in his father's luxury car after a night of partying on January 24, 2009, an inebriated Somaiah hit five persons, killing four instantly. Three of them in their 70s were out on their early morning walk. The fourth was riding a bicycle.

The lone survivor, a 72-year-old man, suffered multiple fractures. During investigations, the police discovered that Somaiah had been involved in another accident on January 26, 1998. He was then riding a high-speed motorbike and killed a 45-year-old pedestrian. Somaiah's case is still pending trial in a city court.

On January 1, 2010, police Sub-Inspector Lakshminarasimha was crushed to death by a speeding car participating in a drag race. Ironically, Hemanth Gowda, the driver, was the son of a police inspector. Hemanth and one of his friends also died in the accident. The boys were returning from a New Year eve party.

Speaking to The Hindu, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M.A. Saleem said that despite these incidents, Bangalore could not be compared to cities such as Delhi and Bombay. “We booked 61,923 cases of drunken driving last year and we have already booked 15,656 cases so far this year. The Delhi police booked only around 18,000 cases in the same period.”

Fewer fatal accidents

He said the licences of second time offenders were impounded. The practice of collecting spot fines from drunken drivers had been stopped. “We do not collect the fine and let the offender go.

As a rule, the fine has to be paid the next day in court and the vehicle is impounded. The driver is sent home in a taxi or we ask him to call a friend or relative to take him home.”

He said the number of fatal road accidents in the city had come down by nearly 20 per cent compared to the previous year. “We have 125 teams patrolling the city for drunken drivers,” he said.

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