Thursday, November 26, 2015

Patiala peg putting drivers in peril

26 Nov 2015
Hindustan Times (Chandigarh)
HT Correspondent

UNSAFE Drunk driving kills 23 persons on Punjab roads every month; offenders have a field day due to gross shortage of alcometers and traffic police personnel

CHANDIGARH: In the state that takes pride in its "Patiala peg", drunk driving kills almost 23 persons every month. Drunk driving offences, however, remain grossly underreported in Punjab. Reason: Lack of equipment and shortage of traffic cops.

In Punjab, there are eight traffic police personnel per lakh population.

For around 40 lakh vehicles plying on state's roads daily, the traffic police have just 125 alcometers or breath-analysers.

According to government data, drunk driving resulted in 442 road crashes, leaving 277 persons dead in 2014. Similarly, in 2013, of 4,588 road crash fatalities reported, 1,711 (37%) were either due to drunk driving or speeding. Police, however, booked only 0.6% of violators for these two offences.

"Actually, not even one person per district is booked/challaned for drunk driving or speeding in the state," claims Navdeep Asija, Punjab's traffic adviser appointed by the high court.

Police, on the other hand, claim that tipsy drivers were on their radar. "Traffic cops are working with dedication during night hours. Special nakas are set up to check drunk drivers and strict action is taken against the offenders," claims Amritsar police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh.

According to doctors and experts, alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgment, depth of perception, as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely.

A study conducted by University of Texas, San Antonio, reveals that people who have been drinking respond between 15% and 25% slower than when they are sober. This slowed reaction time is often the cause of accidents. Judgment is also quickly affected by alcohol. Even a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.02% can impair a person's judgment.

Apart from lack of alcometers, the state is also grappling with shortage of traffic police personnel. In Punjab, there are eight traffic police personnel per lakh population in sharp contrast to about 60 traffic police personnel deployed against per lakh population in Chandigarh.


The cash-strapped state heavily depends on revenue from the booming liquor business.

Liquor vends along national highways in the state have been blamed for most accidents.

The matter is under scanner of the Punjab and Haryana high court after a petition was filed by a Chandigarh-based NGO Arrive Safe Society.

"Liquor vends along highways do booming business. Strangely, the state government, in its affidavit, has claimed that none of the 386 vends along national highways were visible and accessible from the road," says Harman Singh Sidhu, president of Arrive Safe.

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