Will CM's drunk driving diktat remain pipe dream?

Jan 05, 2014, 15:30 IST | Shashank Rao

Traffic police say half of existing breath analysers are dysfunctional, new batch to cost state government Rs 5 lakh each, a sum it hasn't approved yet

The city, it seems, is geared toward a zero-tolerance approachto drunk drivers. But does it have the wherewithal to walk the talk? On one hand, on Friday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan came down hard on drunk drivers and said that their licences must be revoked. However, if the traffic police are to be believed, the CM’s vision may just remain a pipe dream. The traffic police say they work with limited equipment due to lack of funds, and are in dire need of sophisticated gadgets to execute such grand plans. The caveat? A new batch of advanced breath analysers will cost the state government R5 lakh each, a sum it has not approved yet.

Drunk driving cases
Due to dysfunctional breath analysers and lack of funds to repair them, cops say they have no option but to check the driver’s breath manually. File Pic

Sources in the traffic police claim that the new breath analysers come equipped with the latest technology -- they have in-built cameras. “The new breath analyser will help in getting the picture of the motorist suspected to be driving drunk. This detail is most useful and can be stored in our database along with the complete information found on the offender’s driving license,” said a senior traffic official on condition of anonymity.

The fact that the state government has not approved the funds, which could help them procure this new technology, has dismayed the traffic police. Worse, they cannot work well with the existing breath analysers either -- more than half of them function poorly and are often sent for repair and maintenance work. “Of the 84 breath analysers, at least 46 are defective and have been sent for repairs,” said another traffic official.

The nightmare does not end there -- the cost of repairing these breath analysers is close to Rs 2.5 lakh. The cost is sky-high because the spare parts required are largely imported. “We have been asking for funds so we could at least repair the breath analysers we have. But that decision, too, awaits the state government’s nod,” added the official.

With no solution in sight, and the light-handed attitude of the state government when it comes to cleaning essential funds, catching drunk-driving offenders remains a daunting task for the traffic police. Officials say they have no option but to check the driver’s breath manually. Last year more than 15,000 motorists have been caught for drinking and driving. Chavan’s idea for revoking licences came soon after 568 people were caught driving drunk on New Year’s eve. The traffic police collected R5.5 lakh from the offenders, a sum they nonchalantly pay, said Chavan.

Drunk driving cases

2010 – 16,290
2011 – 16,324
2012 – 14,133
2013 – 15,000 (approx)

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