December 9, 2006 12:14am CST
Mumbai is witnessing one drunken driving incident after another. Road Rage incidents have also been in the news lately. Why, just yesterday the well known cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu was convicted of beating a man to death in a fit of road rage. So what’s the connection between road rage and drunken drivers? A very big connection. Attitude. A devil may care attitude. A macho he-man type of self-image. We are familiar with it. Many men (at least in India) are reluctant to admit that they are too drunk to drive because they think it is a slur on their masculinity. When they can’t drive fast or are not allowed to over-take, they feel it’s an affront to their ego. They can get really mad when they are prevented from over-taking. Look closely at those whom you’ve seen drink and drive. The majority of these people (even while sober) will be fast drivers, always itching to get ahead. It’s a mistake to think that drunk drivers are bad drivers…they are not. In fact, they may well be excellent drivers otherwise…so how will making procurement of licences more stringent and being strict about driving tests put a stop to drunken driving….or road rage? We need to change attitudes. Make people realise that refraining from driving after a couple of drinks is sensible, not silly. That being slowed down by another car is irritating, but not an insult. Surely not insulting enough to make a man start yelling, cursing and beating up the driver of the other car! At times road rage and drunk driving go hand in hand and then it’s a potent combination. Interestingly, research in the West has shown that when drivers are intoxicated they exhibit aggressive driving behavior, going too close to the vehicle in front of them and applying more force when breaking. They are also more reckless, quite unable to see the consequences of their actions. So, what happens if a person who is inherently a fast driver, drinks and drives? A double whammy for those who are the recieving end. We know what happened in young Alistair’s case. He mowed down 12 people on Carter Road a few weeks ago. Now it turns out that he has a fake licence. The media is making a hue and cry about it. Tell me, do you think that if Alistair had a genuine licence he would have driven more carefully? Or is the problem with his upbringing? His attitude? The attitude of his mother, who felt that the police treated her son badly? While being strict about issuing licenses and enforcing traffic rules is important, I feel that changing the mind-set of people is even more important. People who want to break laws will usually find a way to do it, at least in India. 8th Dec: The news is that the government is proposing to confiscate the licence of anyone who fails the breath analyser test. That’s the best news I have heard in a long time. The penalty of drunken driving in India is a fine of Rupees two to three thousand and a prison term ranging from six months to two years. However, as conviction takes time, the driver can be back on the road the very next day as it is a bailable offence. In fact, the driving licences of all those who drive recklessly should be confiscated
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