How many of you drink and drive?
Everybody had an opinion about Salman Khan’s drink-driving-not-drink-driving case. But almost everybody is silent on whether he/she has ever driven under the influence of alcohol. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) legal limit in India is 0.03% alcohol in 100 ml of blood. So a couple of beers, few shots of vodka or two solid pegs of whiskey and you are simply not equipped to drive on Indian roads, legally and logically.
The ability to make a judgment of stopping when seeing a moving object is seriously impaired after a couple of drinks. Reaction time increases with every sip you drink. Muscle coordination decreases. Self control and reasoning ability is impaired with every peg. This especially so at night. Representation Pic/Thinkstock
Almost all of us have friends and relatives who drink much much more than a couple of drinks and get behind the wheel. Binge drinking is responsible for 10% of deaths among working age adults in the United States. That, in a country where roads are wide, information readily available, awareness strong and laws enforced. However despite all this people still get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated.
In India, people drive heavy commercial vehicles after drinking copious amounts of alcohol. This is why accident statistics could and must frighten us all. 16 children die on Indian roads daily. There is one death every four minutes due to a road accident in India. In which other country would you find alcohol outlets all along the highways? Trucks and cars parked illegally next to these shacks serving alcohol with no questions asked about legal age is a common sight. But it’s not just there. Even in middle income and rich homes in the country, people serve and consume alcohol and then drive under the influence. Men find it humiliating to ‘allow’ their wives to drive even when they are aware that they are way beyond the legal limit. Wives and partners dare not suggest that they would rather not risk their family’s lives by travelling in a car driven by a drunken driver.
Almost anybody who is educated understands that impairment of one’s senses has begun even before one has reached the legal blood alcohol limit. The ability to make a judgment of stopping when seeing a moving object is seriously impaired after a couple of drinks. Reaction time increases with every sip you drink. Muscle coordination decreases. Self control and reasoning ability is impaired with every peg. This especially so at night. And in a country like India where people don’t necessarily cross roads only at zebra crossings.
Consumption of alcohol reduces inhibition and promotes aggressive behaviour. That in turn results in poor decision making when driving. Jumping lights, making illegal U-turns, turning right at only straight signs are common enough violations. And these can be fatal if the person behind the wheel is not completely alert. Driving needs undivided attention. Not texting, not chatting, and certainly not alcohol-induced loss of coordination, vision and balance.
Have we all not witnessed drunken friends and relatives lurch into the driving seats of their cars while their wives nervously smiled, praying that they reach home safely? But we just stayed silent, right? In many cases policemen don’t stop cars where there are women and children sitting in the passenger seats, presuming that the man behind the wheel would have better sense. It is simply not sensible to get behind a wheel no matter how much or how less the amount of alcohol you have consumed. The only safe amount is zero per cent. Even as you were reading this article, somebody died in a road accident in India. Don’t wait till you are fined, or kill, or injure a human being, or animal on the roads. Stop now.
It is time that awareness programmes about the dangers of drink driving are conducted in schools, colleges and offices. Children can influence parents on decisions, as we have seen with awareness campaigns with regard to use of crackers and plastic bags.
Statistics show that in middle and low-income countries like India, almost 70 % of fatally injured drivers have excess alcohol in their blood. Not a good idea to drive if you have consumed alcohol. Ask a friend to drop you off home, call a cab, get your spouse or partner to choose to stay sober and be the designated driver, stay the night at your host’s place. Exercise any option other than driving under the influence of alcohol. It is not macho. It is plain stupid. And fatally dangerous.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash