High on Diwali ‘spirit’ drunk motorists boast of powerful contacts when caught

Caught drunk driving

Delhiites, notorious for mixing drinking with driving, are high on the deadly cocktail again as Diwali fervour grips the city.

And forget about caring for their own safety or those of others on the road. When caught drunk behind the wheel motorists care little that they have committed an offence that can land them in jail. Instead, they boast of their ‘powerful contacts’ and offer bribes to policemen to get away.

A Mail Today team spent several hours at a police picket near India Gate during late-night checking of drunk drivers. The police are on a massive citywide crackdown on drunk driving ahead of Diwali . High on the festival spirit, the motorists were certainly caught unawares by the sight of the party-poopers in police uniform.

As if announcing that he was drunk and that he didn’t need to take a breathalyser test to prove it, Rajat Sharma (name changed), a businessman, drove into the police picket at the Rajpath crossing with a can of beer kept on the car’s dashboard that was clearly visible to the waiting policemen.

Flagged down, he tried to drive away at first but, realising that he could be chased and caught, stopped unwillingly. At first, he was not ready to come out. Forced out, he started arguing with a police officer.
Policemen stop a motorist trying to speed away after being told to stop, but he seemed unfazed as a policeman escorted him to his superiors. A beer can and glasses were seen on the car-o-bar’s dashboard. The man argued with the police officer after being asked to take the breathalyser test. Eventually he took the test, reluctantly blowing into the breathalyser tube. He was challaned. His car was also impounded by the police.

Sharma’s hangover started to subside only when the officer shoved a breathalyser tube near his mouth and asked him to blow into it. A shaken and stirred Sharma caught the officer’s hand and pleaded that he accept some money and settle the matter. He promised – well, take it with a pinch of salt as scores of drunk drivers who were caught gave the same assurance – “never to drink and drive again”.

Spoiling his night further, the police impounded his car. “It is true that I was drinking and driving. But why was my car impounded?” he asked.

Ravi Kumar (name changed), an executive with a Gurgaon-based firm, was planning a party inside his ‘car-o-bar’ along with two friends when the police knock startled them. Whisky had been poured in three glasses and snacks laid out. The party was about to begin inside the bar-on-wheels when the police flagged them down.

They hadn’t even started drinking but terrified by the sight of the policemen they sped away, only to be chased down by a police control room (PCR) van. “We hadn’t started drinking. But we were scared as there was alcohol inside the car,” Kumar said.

His car too was impounded. “I will have to go to the court tomorrow (Monday). I have vowed not to drink and drive again in my life (well, well…),” he added.

Traffic police officers at the spot said they were used to such excuses. “Only a few minutes ago, we stopped a car and the man behind the steering immediately exchanged seats with his wife sitting beside him. But we were watching all this from a distance and prosecuted him,” an officer said.

When told to take the breathalyser test, one motorist boasted that he counted senior police officers among his friends. As the policemen stood firm, he fell on their feet. Luckily, he was not drunk enough to invite prosecution.

Some motorists caught by the police even threatened the photographer of Mail Today for clicking their pictures.

Besides sending drunk drivers to jail, city courts have also been punishing such drivers by asking them to do community service in gurudwaras or regulate traffic. But clearly the punishments have had no effect on city motorists. In the last six days, the traffic police have booked 1,069 motorists on charges of drunk driving. Last Tuesday, a day when people generally abstain from drinking because of religious beliefs, 111 drunk drivers were caught. This despite the fact that enforcement had been relaxed that day.

Drunk-driving figures in the city are at an all-time high. Sample this. The number of drunkdriving prosecutions in the first 10 months of this year is the highest ever recorded in a single year for the offence in the past decade. In all, 20,606 people – the number was 18,073 in 2011 and 11,388 in 2010 – have been prosecuted till October 31 this year, of which 5, 867 offenders were jailed.

“I thought people understand that driving after drinking is not safe but they seem to not care,” joint commissioner of police (traffic) Satyendra Garg said. “It’s amazing how people don’t care about the consequences of drunk driving. They are not worried about getting killed, they are not worried about getting injured, they are not worried about being sent to jail,” added Garg, who recently raised the issue of drunk driving at a global meet on road safety held in the national Capital.

Firing a warning shot at drunk drivers, the officer said the crackdown will continue in the festive season, enforced by 50 teams of traffic policemen that have fanned out across the city.

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