BENGALURU: Ambulances are usually given way on any busy road. Motorists edge away and traffic cops change signals.
They are on an all-important errand and, while the rest of the road respects that, do ambulance drivers act responsibly?
Traffic cops have been booking cases against drivers for drunken driving and driving without a licence. The number of cases is alarming — in 2014 there were 6,888 such cases; in 2015, it came down to 3470; and, this year, it is already at 3,040.
In the first week of this month, traffic police at Wilson Garden caught an ambulance driver for drunken driving with 266 mg reading. (The legal limit is at 30 mg per 100 ml of blood and the traffic cops do not penalise anyone with a 40 mg reading.)
The driver also did not have a driving license. Last month, at Byatarayanapur and Hebbal, the cops booked cases against two private ambulance drivers for drunken driving in the night.
R Hithendra, GP and Additional Commissioner of Police(Traffic), tells City Express that they happened to come upon this criminal behaviour. “Once we found few such cases, we started inspecting ambulances.” Otherwise, the traffic cops generally let them rush through roads. “Surprisingly many of the drivers were doing rash and drunken driving and many were driving without a licence,” says Hithendra. “When we do come across such cases, we recommend that the transport department cancel their licences along with a fine. We plan to continue this drive for a long time.”
The transport department passes the ball to the traffic police. “We can only check the fitness of the vehicle and the documents such as the driver’s licence, vehicle permit and so on,” says J. Gnanendra Kumar , Joint Commissioner (Transport) Bengaluru Urban. “Traffic cops have to act against drunken driving... and they are doing it.”
Senior police officials too are surprised by these cases. KSR Charan Reddy Addl CP West tweeted: “First school bus drivers, now ambulance drivers. It is very distressing. Primary responsibility is on persons running schools & hospitals.”
Often ambulance drivers complain of motorists not giving way but people say that they are skeptical of these ‘emergencies’.
An IT professional from Infantry Road, Rahul Kumar, says, “Many times we see ambulances which are carrying no patients but have their sirens on. We give way and realise there is no emergency.” Jeeva M, a designer, says, “I have too come across such ambulances.”
Kumar, who drives a private ambulance in Shivajinagar, says that he never misuses the siren. “I use the siren if we have to rush to a spot,” he says. “Then I am carrying no patient, but there is an emergency.” He agrees that some drivers who do misues the siren.
Another private ambulance driver, who did not want to be named, says, “When we are taking a patient, after discharge from the hospital, we don’t use the siren. We don’t drink during our duty time. We may consume alcohol in the night and have a hangover next morning, maybe that is the reading on the alcometer.”