The day the Std 12 results are announced is the day that marks the beginning of adulthood. Now, what does a student who has just passed his HSC do now that he has become an adult, especially if he is from a well-to-do family? He goes to his dad and tells him that he wants to drive his car. He gets his friends along, goes to some pub, gets drunk, and then drives and eventually — and perhaps unavoidably — ends up in an accident. These were the trigger for starting the campaign against drunk driving.
June 8, 2007, was the first day that we carried out our campaign against drunk driving between 11pm and 1am and we caught 65 drivers who were drinking and driving. About 90% were 18-year-olds. Most of them had neither a permit to drink nor a license to drive. Drinking and driving makes a deadly cocktail, particularly if coupled with young blood.
Until then, the police would catch about 10-12 drunk drivers per day. In 2005, for instance, the number of drunk driving cases just over 1,050. The first citywide campaign against drinking and driving was conducted on June 20, 2007, between 11pm and 2am. We caught 333 drivers in one sweep.
I think the figures speak for themselves. The majority of the 60, 000-odd people caught are between 18 and 25 years of age. Also, before 2007, those who were caught would deposit Rs2,000 and never had go to courts. But from 2007, we ensured their presence in the courts by serving summons. And they are all summary trials — Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act is a summary trials case — where you plead guilty or not guilty. Once you plead guilty, you are fined between Rs1,000-1,500.
When we noticed that the number of accidents were not decreasing, we started pleading with courts to impose imprisonment. As a result, 35,000 drunk drivers have been jailed till today. It is mandatory for the courts that once they convict a person, they have to suspend his license for six months. We started insisting on that. If you are caught the second time and convicted, then the courts have to compulsorily cancel your license. That means, legally you can never drive in India.
Then there is the issue of role models. Everyday I see hundreds of mothers and fathers when they go to drop their children to school. The parents violate all the traffic rules and the children follow their example, as they feel these aberrations are normal. Which is why, the right sort of discipline has to be in-built and the sense of patriotism and respect for our own laws has to be in-built.
The writer is superintendent of
police, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Nashik