Friday, January 10, 2014

A Drink Too Expensive - Drunk driving, Death and a Civic Disaster

25th of December. It's 12:30 in the night. A group of boys race away their cars on a highway near Delhi, intoxicated in youth and free flowing Jack Daniels. Time has slowed down for them it seems, hence they drive away. Fast. Dangerous. While they blast their worries into oblivion, little did they know that oblivion would be their only sanctuary this fateful night. One dark corner, the driver turns the car at 120. The car turns skids and rolls over. Fading into oblivion, the exuberance of youth was lost.

While the story mentioned above is just a figment of the author's imagination, it is not entirely fictitious. Drunk driving is a big menace and a harsh reality of the times we live in. Romanticization of a high life with little fear of reproach or safety drives many to commit this offence. While it's all fair in the movies, it is not in real life. In a 2012 research paper, professors at SRM University bring to light the fact that India recorded the highest number of road accident related deaths in 2010. Of this, roughly 40% accidents were linked to alcohol. Majority of these offenders fell into the age group of 21-30. Untied by familial responsibilities and with no dearth of resources, many from this age group tend to be foolhardy with their lives and those of others. Having said that, make no mistake in thinking that only the youth are to be blamed. Drunk driving is common across all age groups however, the only thing that varies is the average level of blood alcohol.

While it is easy to comment on lack of civic sense in our youth, it is also important to note the fact that only a handful of such perpetrators are actually handcuffed and put behind bars. Many get away with petty bribery which further puts the lives of common citizens at risk. Out of 24,564 cases which were reported and taken to trial, only 3,400 perpetrators were imprisoned. But is the law enforcement machinery solely responsible for this menace? Lack of education, lack of respect for laws, and little involvement of citizens in these matters are the significant factors contributing to the prevalence of this crime. It is imperative for the citizens and establishments to come together to mitigate the incident of drunk driving.

What should you do?
  • Don’t consume alcohol like oxygen. If you must, do it at home. When you drink and drive, you risk your precious car, your life, and the lives of innocent law-abiding citizens
  • When going to a party with friends/family, always have a designated driver who does not drink
  • If a designated driver is not available, take a cab to the bar/club. It will turn out to be cheaper in the long run
  • Do not give in to your inebriated friend’s request to ‘fly’ the car. Be smart and secure the car keys

How can establishments (such as bars and restaurants) help?
  • All establishments should offer the facility of arranging Radio Taxis/Auto rickshaws for their guests
  • Establishments, particularly bars and clubs, should encourage guests to not drink and drive with catchy creatives
  • Establishments that have valet parking, should offer their own drivers (at a cost) if they sense that the guest is inebriated and incapable of driving. In such a situation, they should refrain from handing over the keys and call security services in case the guest creates a ruckus
  • Bartenders and servers should be given directions to refuse additional alcohol to guests who are in an inebriated state
How can citizens help?
  • Be a good Samaritan and call the police immediately when you sense negligent or drunk driving
  • If the drunk driver is alone, try and engage him and hide the keys. Then call the police while he is looking for the keys
  • If the drunk driver is in a group, it’s quite likely that all are drunk. Don’t engage. It could turn out to be dangerous. Directly call the police
  • If possible, follow the car and alert the nearest PCR van that you see on the way. A little effort can save lives
  • Educate your children on the perils of drunk driving and other road violations
These steps may seem somewhat idealistic. But driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs is not a slow poison. It’s cyanide. It is a suicide attack that not only kills the perpetrator but is also responsible for collateral damage of property and innocent lives. Your little effort can save someone’s live – be it the driver or the unsuspecting pedestrian. 

Article written by Vistrit Choudhary, a writer and volunteer with the Zerocrime initiative

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