mid-day editorial: Let's drive the safety message home

Just two weeks before he would have turned six, Gorai resident Sarthak Kolekar and his 65-year-old grandfather were mowed down by a speeding Volkswagen as the family was returning home. Such was the impact that the boy was thrown in the air and his grandfather was flung across the road.

The driver did not even bother to stop and had to be chased down by locals and passers-by on bikes. The police then confirmed that he was driving drunk, heading home after a party. Just because one man made the irresponsible decision to drive in an inebriated condition, two lives have been snuffed out, young parents have lost their child and the entire family has been shattered.

Drink driving persists despite a sweeping crackdown by the police. We see heavy police presence on roads on festive days when people are expected to drink heavily. There is extensive checking and it has certainly created some fear amongst drivers. But maybe a stronger deterrent is required: the net needs to be widened on every day of the year, nakabandis and checks must be especially stringent, so that errant drivers do not think it is okay to drink and drive on regular days.

More importantly, it is the driver and his conscience that needs to wake up to the fact that to drink and drive means you can change somebody’s life in an instance. You can turn a family’s bright present into darkness. More awareness is necessary among young drivers, and driving schools and teachers must use constant reinforcement to drill into them that drinking and driving simply do not go together. Society must absolutely shame those who don’t give a hoot for others lives.

Punitive action by the police is only one tactic in what must be a multi-pronged approach to tackling this. Educational institutions, driving schools, families and even night spots have to hammer home the message that you are always too drunk to drive. Shift the approach from instilling the fear of punishment to a real sense of guilt, shame and strong introspection among those who take the wheel.

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