Toast to safety

The point may or may not have been driven home. But the crashed red Verna, that was towed through the City by cops last few weeks, with the tag ‘My driver was drunk’ did manage to arrest some attention. While that is some solace, how best have the repercussions of a fatal cocktail (of drinking and driving) hammered home?

The ‘crashed car message’ represented the immediate consequence of a momentary high. “The message has really worked. We will continue to display the car all over the City, near malls, shopping areas, theatres to remind people of the enormity of the danger,” informs Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Praveen Sood. “The idea came in from ACP (East) Srinivas Murthy. The purpose, however, is to sensitise people and not to scare them,” he adds.

For the inebriated, the idea of drinking and driving as socially unacceptable, does not sink in. Says Sampath Reddy, a software engineer, “For the insensitive, no message will make a change. It all boils down to irresponsibility. In the same breath as one says, ‘it’s cool to be vegetarian’, one should also be able to say ‘it’s cool to be non-alcoholic’.”

Even as there are plenty of cheers to campaigns against the menace, a stronger enforcement of law is also being sought. Retd Justice Michael Saldanha suggests, “One should adopt what is being done in Mumbai, where you have neon lights across the City blinking statistics of people arrested everyday for drunken driving, jumping signals and other traffic offences. The media should also be a vehicle of such messages.”

Homemaker Shobana Sachidanand finds any campaign against drunken driving effective. “By publicly parading the vehicle, the authorities have indeed taken a small step towards educating the public on the menace of drunken driving.  In these days of indisciplined driving, getting the message across any which way is certainly a welcome step,” she says.

She finds the Government doing its best but feels the responsibility is more with the people to follow the rules while driving and not to violate them wantonly.

As it is, there is no dearth of awareness and tons of literature are coming out ad-nauseum warning drunk drivers. But are they enough? Says Saldanha, “Firstly, a stricter enforcement of law is required, secondly there should be no infraction of the law.” On respecting the law, he cites the example wherein he witnessed Tony Blair being apprehended by the cops for not heeding to traffic signal while Blair was on his way to his office.

The inebriated drinker, meanwhile, has been told many a time to look for other options to get home. Yet, designated drivers have not become a reality here. “We are not against drinking. If you can spend thousands buying a drink, why don’t you hire a cab or take a public transport back home if you are drunk?” asks Sood. The truth, he says, is “The driver tends to think that ‘this is not going to happen to me’. I tell them you survived all these years by sheer chance.”

While graphic images of real road mishaps are trying to cut down drunken driving on the Net, there is always an inebriated driver who boasts of being in control even when drunk. Sood talks about the seriousness of the scenario. “There are a lot of self-accidents as a result of drunken driving. Young people have become complacent to drinking and driving. In fact, our officers have to face a barrage of abuses from drivers, especially, from the higher middle income group, if they are stopped. They should understand that we are not there to spoil the party.” Amen to that.

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