Drunk driving: Being young, high and in jail

If you thought being caught driving under the influence was bad enough, the jail term that comes with the offence is life-changing and youngsters between age 21-30 seem to be the most common offenders.

Published: 08th October 2013 08:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th October 2013 09:55 AM   |  A+A-

Since the Hyderabad Traffic Police began their drive against drunk driving in November 2011, a majority of the offenders that have been booked have been within the age group of 21-30, according to the department’s statistics.

A study of their data for this year until September reveals that 48 per cent of the total 9864 offenders fall within this age group, consistent with the overall percentage of offenders within this age group from November 2011. The reason, officials believe, is that these offenders are young, with lesser responsibilities and shirk of the shame of being caught or jailed a lot easier than people from an older age group.

“Most of the people between 21-30 years of age are either studying or are employed in private companies. They are not tied down by familial responsibilities as many of them aren’t married. This usually means that they go out to have fun with their friends at the end of the week,” said a senior traffic official on condition of anonymity.

The drive, which has seen traffic police monitor junctions like Greenlands, Jubilee Hills check post, Kishan Bagh and  Musheerabad main road where popular night clubs are located, is active on Friday and Saturday night – days typical of people stepping out to catch a few drinks with friends or heading to a party. Sunday night is usually a slower night as Monday is work day for most everybody.

In 2012, 47 per cent (5137) of those fined belonged to this category of the 10,813 cases. Traffic officials say that while there has been an improvement, that has only been reflected among people who are blue collar employees and software professionals; many that get caught are youth from the unorganised sector who constitute the ‘private employee’ category.

As per the statistics, there has been a rise from last year’s 3402 to this year’s 3556 (counting until September), all of who fall under the ‘private employee’ category.

“The crowd between the identified age group include people from different classes, including the lower-middle class. Moreover, that is the age group that drinks heavily. Persons above 40 or in their 50’s won’t drink as much, nor will they drive in that condition; they are a little more cautious,” points out Amit Garg, additional commissioner of police (traffic).

Besides being reckless about drinking under the influence, youngsters are also likely to try and weasel their way out after being caught. The most common excuse given is that they’ve just had a few beers which won’t do much harm. “They try to wriggle out of the situation by trying to convince us otherwise. But the average blood alcohol count (BAC) among youngsters ‘who’ve just had a few beers’ is between 51-100. The acceptable level is between 1 and 30,” explains another traffic official who spends the better part of his Friday night picking up offenders.

Statistics show that as many as 9909 offenders (44 per cent) of the total 22,377 caught since November 2011, had an average BAC level between 51 and 100.

For middle-aged men however, the shame of being caught by a police officer and a possible jail sentence keeps them within the acceptable BAC level. Says Garg, “The Magistrate sentences offenders to anything between one to three days, depending on the severity. While youngsters seem less likely to be bothered by that, older men feel ashamed as they have to face their families and children.”

As was the case with 31 year-old Ram Kumar (name changed). On the one day that he decided to drink, Kumar was pulled over and caught for driving under the influence with a BAC level just over 30. Kumar spent one awful night at the Chanchalguda prison that changed his life entirely.

“Prison is prison. Even though I went in there just for a night, I won’t forget what I went through,” he shares. Ironically, Kumar was drinking after a gap of two years, being an unwilling party to a friendly get-together. “I was with my friends, and because we were together I decided to go for it,” he said.

A night amidst convicted felons and a small group of youngsters arrested for murder was more than enough for him to vow never to drink again. “The moment I saw them I could make out that they weren’t normal people. I didn’t want to even try speaking with them,” he shudders remembering.

Kumar wasn’t the only one caught that night and the memory of what others went through haunts him as well. “There was another man who was crying the whole night. The experience of going to prison really shakes up a person. If my dad comes to know that I went to jail, he wouldn’t be able to live.”

However, Kumar represents a large community of people who consume alcohol but don’t expect to be caught. “Only people who drink need to be cautioned against getting caught. I don’t even drink regularly, so it never crossed my mind,” he

exclaimed. In a bid to find a way around this attitude, the traffic police are planning on taking up awareness programmes in the city. “A few organizations approached me for that, and we may take it up soon in partnership with them,” confirmed Garg.


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