Hoardings put all across Delhi late last year pronounced that a large number of accidents (21,333 to be precise) were averted due to prosecutions by the Delhi Traffic Police. While the claim might a little over the top, the influence of alcohol as a major cause of road accidents all across the world remains an indisputable fact. In the recent past, the Delhi Police have upped the ante against violators of the law and officers believe that there is a clear co-relation between the decline in the number of fatal accidents and the drive against drink driving.

According to the latest data available for the current year, 9,877 cases of drink driving have been reported.

It is common knowledge that the number of those driving under the influence of alcohol could be much higher.

As per existing laws, an accused is punished for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 6 months or a fine up to Rs. 2,000 or both; and for a subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine up to Rs. 3,000 or both. In most cases, offenders get away by just paying the fines.

Licences suspended

While campaigners allege that for those from affluent families do not mind paying fines and thus the law fails to deter them, statistics reveal that in some cases, the licences have also been suspended.

In 2012 itself, out of the 25,678 prosecutions — which is the highest ever — 6,873 offenders had to face jail terms and over 1,000 licences were suspended. The most widely used device to detect drivers is the breath analyzer used to detect the blood alcohol content from the breath sample obtained after the offender blows air into it. The traffic cops have sustained drives to screen such offenders and challan them.

“Usually during any such drive we carry the apparatus needed, but there could be a situation where the manner in which the vehicle moves creates suspicion in the mind of the patrolling policeman or if the suspect is refusing to undergo a breath analyser test. In such situations, he or she could be asked to take a medical test where the blood sample is tested for the BAC,” said a police officer. There have also been cases where the vehicles have been impounded. “Under no circumstances, we allow someone in an inebriated to land in a situation potentially hazardous for them and/or others. If the accused is accompanied by another person who is sober, knows how to drive and has valid licence to drive a vehicle, we allow the vehicle to leave. If the person is all alone, we impound the vehicle and it’s only released if the court orders so,” the officer said.

Routine checks needed

Social activist Prince Singhal from the Community Against Drink driving said a lot is left to be desired as far as strict enforcement and better deterrence is concerned. “Occasional drives won’t solve the problem, those can only manifest. The checking should be on a routine basis, especially in places close to bars and pubs.’’

SHUBHOMOY SIKDAR

In 2012 itself, out of the 25,678 prosecutions, which is the highest ever, 6,873 offenders had to face jail terms and over 1,000 licences were suspended