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Only Sober Goans Must Drive Vehicles

We have a good example of deterrence for drunken driving. Three persons from Ponda taluka were convicted on Monday by a court at Ponda for driving under influence of alcohol beyond permissible limit. Two were sentenced to two days imprisonment, the third to a week. Their driving licences have been suspended for four months. The police officials of Ponda deserve appreciation for securing the convictions. If the police officials in other talukas demonstrate similar zeal, the number of convictions for drunken driving could be a long one. Director General of Police Muktesh Chander’s view that with the convictions the incidence of alcohol abuse among drivers would decline is overoptimistic. The Goa police conducted a four-hour-long check for drunken driving on Friday during which they found 300 drivers under the influence of alcohol beyond permissible limits. They would certainly have caught many more persons for drunken driving had they done it unannounced. But strangely, they let everybody know that they are going to conduct a check in the evening. We are still to figure out the logic of warning drinkers to keep off roads during certain hours.

Drinking is widely prevalent in the state. A number of Goans consume liquor to celebrate almost every occasion and wet parties are regularly held. Consumption of liquor is almost considered a part of Goan culture. Tourists add to the number of drinkers. Though the law against drunken driving has existed for a long time it has been seldom used. The police appear to have taken cognizance of a large number of accidents taking place on the state’s roads, many of them attributed to driving under the influence of liquor. More than 300 people die on an average in road accidents each year and families lose their breadwinners. Deaths of hundreds of people and injuries to an unknown number of them warrant drastic action on the part of authorities who must prevent accidents and their fatal consequences. The drive against drunk driving must be conducted regularly by the police and strict action against violators taken, for that will surely bring down the number of accidents. Police checks in the future should not be announced and circulated in advance.

The government also needs to create awareness among people about the risks of drunken driving and the stringent legal provisions against drunken driving. Studies have shown that all drivers are negatively affected after consuming alcohol as related to judgment, vision, coordination and reaction time. It is necessary that action against drunk driving is consistent. If necessary the law should be tweaked to provide for harsher punishment for repeat offenders including long-term jail sentence. While undertaking their drives the police have to check that alcometers are sterilized to ensure that people who are checked for liquor consumption are not affected by communicable diseases. To make drivers follow safety instructions, the Goa police should propagate the best practices followed in the western world. They should make people know that they can go to bars and restaurants and parties and drink but they should not drive. There should be at least one person in a group travelling in a car who does not drink at the party and remains sober. The sober one will be allowed to drive his or her group back home. The law is against drunken driving, not against drunken travelling. The passengers in the car can be drunk and asleep, but the driver must not have touched liquor to drive with all his or her faculties alert.

The police should not stop at drunken driving. They need to widen the scope to include hallucinating drugs. Drug abuse is increasing, so driving under influence of drugs should also be brought under the ambit of police action. Tackling driving under the influence of liquor and drugs requires a collective effort which involves society and government. The society must help in checking drunken driving. Families must debate the issue and arrive at a voluntary conclusion that driving under the influence of liquor is not safe. It puts lives of dear ones driving or sitting in the vehicle at risk. People must learn to accept the fact that the prohibition on drunken driving is not a prohibition on drinking. It is not moral policing, but a policing that is intended to save lives. However, the Goa police needs to change its ways too. They are in the habit of conducting spasmodic ‘drives’ against this thing and that thing and then taking a long rest. They must undertake continuous programmes, rather than a few hours’ long, daylong or weeklong drives.

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