Mumbai: More than 2,000 people were booked for drink driving on New Year’s Eve in Mumbai (455), Delhi (509), Kolkata (182), Chennai (263) and Bengaluru (667), according to various news reports. This was a 26% drop from 615 cases in Mumbai, 33% drop from 765 cases in Delhi, and 52% drop from 1,390 cases in Bengaluru last year.

Thousands of traffic police personnel were deployed across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other Indian cities on New Year’s Eve to ensure safety and check drink driving.

“Identifying vulnerable locations and systematic crackdowns throughout the year helped us reduce drunk driving in Mumbai," Amitesh Kumar, joint commissioner, traffic, said, The Times of India reported on January 2, 2019.

Mumbai Metropolitan Region--that includes Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira-Bhayander--saw a 22% rise in drink driving cases on New Year’s Eve, from 2,444 in 2017 to 2,985 in 2018.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a punishable offence--attracting a fine of upto Rs 2,000 and/or imprisonment for upto six months on first offence, and a fine of upto Rs 3,000 and/or imprisonment for upto two years if repeated within three years, under the Section 185 of The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

A person can be punished if alcohol exceeding 30 milligram per 100 millilitre of blood is detected in a breath analyser test, according to the Act.

“All the state governments/UTs have been requested to ensure that no license is issued to liquor vendors along National Highways,” Mansukh Mandaviya, minister of state in the ministry of road transport and highways, told the Lok Sabha (parliament’s lower house) in a reply on December 20, 2018. “Further they have also been requested to review cases where licence has already been given for liquor vendors along National Highways and to take corrective action.”

2017 saw 22% fewer deaths from driving under influence

In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, 4,776 people--or 13 every day--died in 14,071 road accidents due to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to data from the roads and highways ministry. This was a 22% decline from 6,131 deaths in such accidents in 2016.

By 2017, deaths had declined 38% from 2008 when 7,682 deaths were recorded in such accidents, and 55% since 2011 when 10,553 were recorded--the most deaths over the last decade, when deaths from such accidents had accounted for 3.2% of the 147,913 deaths recorded in 464,910 road accidents nationwide that year.

Between 2008 and 2017, 76,446 people died in 211,405 road accidents nationwide due to consumption of alcohol or drugs, data show.

Source: Ministry of road transport and highways; Road Accidents In India--2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.

However, these figures could be an underestimate. For road accidents, the standard operating procedure should include testing the victim and the accused for alcohol immediately, Piyush Tewari, founder, Savelife Foundation, a road safety advocacy, told IndiaSpend. “When you look at the government data, there is no guarantee; the data is pretty fractured.”

Further undercounting of deaths from such accidents is possible due to the procedure of data collection, Tewari said. “The current system that the government follows in collecting the data is based on FIRs [first information report]. If a crash occurs, followed by an immediate death of the victim at the time of filing the FIR, then it is recorded, but if the death occurs after a week of the crash in the hospital then the change is only made in the chargesheet and not in the FIR. So a large number of victims get lost as a result of this.” The source of data needs to move from the police system to the health system, he added.

Uttar Pradesh saw most accidents and deaths for driving under influence

In 2017, Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state, reported the most accidents--3,336 or 24% of accidents nationwide--due to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while Andhra Pradesh (2,064) and Tamil Nadu (1,833) came in next.

UP also recorded the most deaths--1,687 or 35% in such accidents nationwide--that year, followed by Odisha (735) and Jharkhand (430).

Source: Ministry of road transport and highways

The figures for UP and Tamil Nadu cannot be compared, Tewari said, because UP is likely to have many more accidents than the data show. “UP still has the worst recording systems for road crashes and investigating these crashes,” he said, adding that by contrast, “Tamil Nadu has a RADMS, which is the road accident data management system, where every crash is recorded electronically in their database.”

India rated worst among BRICS nations on enforcing drink-driving laws

In terms of enforcement of drink-driving laws, India was rated 4 on a scale of 0 to 10, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report On Road Safety 2018, published in December 2018.

India’s rating was the lowest among the BRICS countries--Brazil (6), Russia (6), China (9) and South Africa (5).

Among its South Asian neighbours, India shared the same rating as Pakistan (4) and was better only than Bangladesh (2), but worse than Afghanistan (6), Bhutan (6), Nepal (8) and Sri Lanka (9).

Seven countries--Ireland, Norway, Oman, Poland, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan--scored 10 for enforcement of drink-driving laws.

Countries such as China and Sri Lanka have dedicated a lot of human resources to checking driving under the influence, Tewari said. The other steps on enforcing drink-driving laws--such as identifying and penalising violators--can happen electronically, he said, adding that India has “not moved to electronic enforcement system, our manpower is pretty much spread across the board and the capacity is right now very, very low to enforce any kind of drinking and driving law.”

(Mallapur is a senior policy analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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