Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Essay on Drunk Driving - how to Prevent it

Essay on Drunk Driving - how to Prevent it

Essay on Drunk Driving - how to Prevent it

With India reporting as many as 1.34 lakh fatalities in road accidents every year, a vast 70% of them being due to drunken driving, questions are now being raised on whether the mushrooming growth of liquor vends along the highways is responsible for costing precious lives in an untimely manner. The number of road accidents in India is twice as much as in China. This is despite the fact that China exceeds India by 99 million in terms of people and vehicles. About 400 people die on Indian roads every day, making the country notorious for the world’s highest fatalities in road accidents.

When one drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (whether prescription, over the counter medications or illegal) they pose a danger not only to oneself but the passengers and other on the road. They can impair necessary driving skills including vision, reaction time, judgment, hearing and simultaneous task processing accomplishment. Driving requires other cognitive skills, such as information processing and psychomotor skills, which may also be impaired by the use of drugs. When drugs are mixed with alcohol the results can be devastating.

India had earned the dubious distinction of having more number of fatalities due to road accidents in the word. Road safety is emerging as a major social concern around the world, especially in India. Drinking and driving is already a serious public health problem, which is likely to emerge as one of the most significant problems in the near future. The role of alcohol in traffic safety has produced more controversies than any other topic. Alcohol and driving don’t mix, but still, many people love to drink and drive resulting in numerous road mishaps. A drunken driver is a potential murderer as he cannot perform his tasks without risks and endangers road safety.

A few well known facts about alcohol – It is a depressant drug that slows down the activity of the brain contains absolutely no nutrients; it does not help to relieve tension, induce sleep or solve problems. It needs no digestion and is absorbed rapidly into the blood stream; about 10% to 15% of alcohol users develop alcohol dependence and become alcoholics. After drinking, the judgment power of the driver gets impaired which is a threat to road safety. Due to its effects, driver tends to take more risks, becomes more aggressive and takes a longer reaction time. 

In India, this problem of drug or drunk driving is not only limited to road driving. In a recent study it was found that Indian Railways has seen a near fourfold rise in the number of train drivers who failed an alcohol test over the past five years. Most of these loco-pilots showed up for work drunk and about 15% of them at an annualized average failed the alcohol test at the end of their journey which means they probably risked the lives of hundreds of passengers. These include passengers (long distance and sub Urban) and goods train drivers. 

One commonly used method to detect alcohol predicament on road is the blood alcohol content (BAC) also known as blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol level is most commonly used as a metric of alcohol intoxication for legal or medical purposes. Blood alcohol concentration is usually expressed as a percentage of Ethanol in the blood in units of mass of alcohol per volume of blood or mass of alcohol per mass of blood, depending on the country. In India the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) or blood alcohol concentration is 0.03% or 30mg per 100 ml of blood. If a person driving a car has a level higher than that he or she can be booked under section 185 of the motor vehicle act, which consists of challan for rupees 10,000 and suspension of driving license for 3 months along with the provision of jail term for 6 months. In case of repeated offence driving license may be completely cancelled if a drunk driver is involved in an accident, a non bail able warrant will be issued and the person may be imprisoned for up to 10 years. 

Strict enforcement supplemented with education is one of the most powerful tools to tackle the problem and need to be seriously considered. Current reinforced by strict laws, availability of trained police and dedicated teams, the use of breath analyzer in a scientific manner, the introduction of random checks increase in current penalty levels, and the strict enforcement of laws in a visible, uniform and regular manner. 

Keeping the above in view in December 2015 the Supreme Court in India banned all liquor shops within 500 meters of national and state highway across the country. This move was aimed at reducing drunk driving and road accidents driving that claim thousands of lives every year. The recent ban on liquor vends might help tackle the menace of tipplers on highways but driving under influence of psychoactive drugs still remains an unaddressed issue. The drugs that are deemed to render a person incapable of exercising proper control over a motor vehicle as specified by the Central government include central nervous system depressants (cocaine and Cannabis), Hypnotic sedatives, Narcotic Analgesics (Morphine etc.), psychotropic drugs (LSD), stimulants and tranquilizers (Diazepam etc). 

Drug testing policy is still at its nascent stage in India however it's more prevalent in other countries. Though there are few safety sensitive industries which have mandated the drug testing practice for employees but still there are lot many which are not surrounded by this practice of a postgraduate Institute of Medical education and research (PGIMER) Chandigarh’s Department of Forensic Medicine and pharmacology on patients brought to its trauma center found substance consumption in over 50% of driver. Alcohol was the most prevalent substance consumed followed by opiates, cannabis and benzodiazepines.

The United Nations declared India as Southern Asia’s biggest consumer of heroine in a comprehensive drug report. Often thought of as an ideal transit point for countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nepal, most of the drugs in Southern Asia don't make it out of our country. According to the Times of India of the 40 tons of heroine produced in South Asia nearly 17 tones are consumed in India for every year during ‘Holi’, the Indian citizens tend to abandon all inhibitions and many of them bring their reckless, ‘bhang’ (or cannabis) addled selves out on the roads, it creates havoc as breathalyzer can't detect if a person is driving after consuming bhang. 

Bhang, an extract of the leaves of Cannabis sativa contains THC (tetrahydrocanabinol), a psychoactive molecule responsible for the high associated with the herb. Different intensities and leaves of the same substance produced different levels of Intoxication in various Cannabis products like Marijuana and Hashish. The presence of THC cannot be detected in the breath and shows up only in the blood. So, anyone under the influence of ‘bhang’ needs to be taken for blood test to ascertain the nature of his intoxication. 

What is one of the most difficult factors to determine is weather an accident was because of drinking and driving. The drivers invariably abscond only to be found later when the effect of alcohol would have safely worn off. The people at the accident spot concentrate on getting the injured to hospital rather than nabbing the driver responsible and if they do find the driver he would be badly beaten. And the police normally have very poor equipment for testing blood and iron levels, and often car drivers have left the scene of the accident when the police arrive. 

In India, the scale of problem is not well understood, there is a little public awareness of the problem and legislation and the enforcement are inadequate. It is needless to say a majority of accidents which occur due to drunken driving and as such there is no effective mechanism to prevent this. 

Though some strict efforts are being taken to reduce the road accidents due to drunken or drugged driving, considering the gravity of the situation it is important to change strategies and mechanism with foresight and effective implementation. An intensive drive against the ill effects of drug or alcohol driving is the need of the hour to promote road safety. It is important to initiate necessary steps to achieve this by overcoming all the challenges.



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