Traffic police say that, on average, 60 school bus and ambulance drivers are booked for drunken driving in a week.Marked overall increase in number of drunken driving cases booked over the last three years is due to increase in and longer checking hours
BENGALURU: Cases of school bus drivers getting caught for drunken driving is on the rise, say officer from the Bengaluru Traffic Police. This can be related to the overall spike in the number of violators booked, for which data is available online. Most recently, On October 30, a DPS school bus driver got into an accident while dropping students home, where four students sustained injuries. Parents alleged that the driver was drunk, while the school denied these allegations, claiming that they conduct checks regularly.
City Express caught up with Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) R Hithendra to talk about this worrying trend. He says, “It is unfortunate that ambulance and school bus drivers are driving under the influence. We cannot also make them stop because they are either in a hurry or are in an emergency situation.”
‘Out of 200 cases, 60 are school bus, ambulance drivers’Hithendra says that they have asked school and hospital authorities to equip themselves with alcometers to make sure that it is safe for the drivers to continue their duty.Shedding some light on the on-ground reality, an traffic police officer, who did not want to be named, stationed at Cubbon Park says that on an average, they catch 60 ambulance and school bus drivers driving under the influence. “Overall, we book 200 cases of drunken driving in a week, out of which an average of 60 drivers are ambulance and school bus drivers. These drivers usually have financial and job security tensions, therefore they hit the bottle.” The officer adds that with school bus drivers, a fine is levied and the DL is taken away. The driver then has to renew his/her DL at the RTO Office.
‘Alcometers at school a must’
Hithendra says that they have asked school authorities to equip themselves with alcometers to make sure that it is safe for the drivers to continue their duty. However, it is the school’s responsibilty to enforce the same in a stricter manner.D Shashi Kumar from the Associated Management of English Medium Schools in Karnataka (KAMS) says that it is important for checking to happen each time the bus leaves the school premises using alcometers. “It’s not possible or feasible sometimes for all schools to implement this, as some of them have a large number of buses and it’s hard to keep track, and in such cases, it’s the responsibilty of parents to be more pro-active in their children’s wellbeing.”
He adds that these drivers don’t drink and come for duty in the morning, they’ve usually drank the night before, and by morning, the blood alcohol levels have not gone down as yet. Schools should do more for spreading awareness, and in the case of private transport companies who drop and pick-up students from certain schools, it’s the parents who have to be more vigilant.
Shweta Saran, who started a Facebook community called Bangalore Schools, says that schools have to take steps and implemet the usage of alcometers on a daily basis, citing the example of a Sarjapur school where the principal is very particular on conducting breath analysis.
Talking about the success of reporting such cases on the Bangalore Schools Facebook page, she says, “If and when residents or parents see rash driving and violation of traffic rules by bus drivers, they can take a picture and post it, as that makes it easier to identify the school and bus number. Once this is done, we email the school about this, and from experience, schools are very responsive.”
20 per cent hike from 2015
According to official data, from January to October this year, the total number of cases booked were 55, 426, which is 19.6% (9,073 cases) more than booked than in 2015 (a total of 62,576), and 17.2% (8,143 cases) more than in 2016 (a total of 59,028). “The frequency of booking of drunken driving cases is due to the increase in monitoring by police officers,” says Hithendra, adding that the fine levied earlier was Rs. 2,000, which has now increased to Rs.10,000 along with a cancellation of the drivers licence DL. He says that they don’t believe in creating awareness because this awareness should come from the people, who are more than knowledgeable of the rules, which is why they have been given a DL in the first place.
More cases booked on weekends as checkings go on till 2am
Hithendra says that MG Road, Brigade Road, Indiranagar, Koramangala and Old Airport Rod are where they they book the most number of cases, but don’t keep a track of the most common age-group that is caught driving under the influence. “Weekends are when the most number of cases are booked, as officers make it a point to stay on the roads checking takes place till 2-2.30am. The officers are allowed to report a little later the next day,” he says. On weekdays, checking happens till 10.30pm-11pm, and hence less cases are booked, he adds.
‘Show off about their contacts’
Hithendra says that when people are caught driving drunk, they deny it, and don’t agree to blow into the alcometer. “When we tell some people to blow into the alcometer, they start raising their voices and boast about the kind of contacts they have,” says Hithendra. Rohit (name changed), a software engineer, says that earlier, it was a lot easier getting away with drunken driving, as some officers would take bribes of Rs.500 and let you go after persuading. “These days, checking has increased and become more stricter. There are a lot more checking points around the city now, and checking also goes on till much later than it used to. Someone familiar with the city can evade checking by taking different routes.”