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Posted by Royal Sundaram on 04 Jul 2014
It’s Saturday night. You’re on your way home from attending a party. A car zips past you at breakneck speed. You curse under your breath, “Stupid! Is he drunk or something??!” The sad truth is that he probably is. Driving under the influence of alcohol is not merely illegal. It comes with a HUGE danger sign because it can cause accidents that may be fatal or leave the victim incapacitated for life. Yet, we risk all this for a couple of hours of enjoyment with friends. Here’s an endeavour to understand what drunk driving really is, what the law says about it and what its impact is.
Had a Bacardi Breezer (the yummy cranberry flavour) and need to drive home? That’s NOT drunk driving. So, let’s understand what classifies as this phenomenon. You can be categorized as drunk only if your BAC, or blood alcohol content, is at or above 0.03%. This means that, for every 100 ml of blood, if there is 30 µl (micro-litre) of alcohol present, you can be said to be drunk.
What the Law Says
If your BAC is 0.03% or above, you can be charged with drunk driving. Be aware that this is a criminal offense, since you have broken the law. If you’re lucky, you will escape with a fine. However, if you are not that lucky, you may find yourself facing imprisonment for as much as six months. In case your BAC is significantly higher than 30 µl per 100 ml of blood, the imprisonment and fine could be more, depending on the extent to which you are drunk. For instance, with alcohol content of 60 to 150 mg, the imprisonment could be for a year. The penalty could go as high as two years of imprisonment for alcohol levels higher than 150 mg per 100 ml of blood. In case, you’re a repeat offender, you would be facing imprisonment for three years.
Is Drunk Driving Really That Bad?
To hell with the law, you say. You deserve to have fun this evening. After all, you’ve worked really hard the entire week. It may be possible to escape the law, but is it possible to escape an unfortunate event? Did you know that a person with 0.03% BAC is seven times more likely to be involved in a vehicle crash than a person who has not consumed any alcoholic beverage? The chances of an accident are higher when a person is under the influence of alcohol because this substance has a severe impact on your ability to think logically as well as your ability to judge the depth or distance between objects. You heavily rely on these skills for safe driving.
Don’t Let Drunk Driving Reduce You to a Statistic
It is not uncommon to pick up the newspaper and read about a road accident. In fact, India holds the world record in the number of road accidents annually, according to a report released by the WHO in 2010. It is also not uncommon to read something like this – A 25-year-old youth, suspected of driving drunk, crashes his Chevrolet Cruze into 3 pedestrians. Around 1,34,000 people die every year in India on account of road accidents. The most shocking fact is that 70% of these are due to the consumption of alcohol, according to a report released in 2011 by CADD (Community Against Drunk Driving).
According to projections released by apex industry body ASSOCHAM, India’s alcohol consumption is expected to cross 19,000 million litres by 2015. The effects of this can be clearly seen in the metros. In April 2014, around 500 drunk driving cases were recorded in New Delhi on a single Friday night. For 10 years, Chennai has held the record of the highest drunk driving cases. The situation is worse outside the cities. “Around 99% of the fatal accidents that occur outside the cities are due to drunken driving,” says former Joint Commissioner of Police Maxwell Perreira.
Myths About Alcohol Consumption
Much of the problem with drunk driving is associated with what we feel about alcohol. There are several myths that we hold close to our hearts in order to drink more.
Drinking some alcohol is good for health. While red wine may be good for the heart, there is no justification for drinking more than a small glass of it. Moreover, other drinks have no proven health benefits.
Drinking wine is safer than other alcoholic beverages. Somehow wine is associated with sophisticated drinking. However, some wines can have a very high percentage of alcohol, much higher than beer or even whiskey.
I know my limits. Sure, you may know this. However, there are several factors that play a role. Whether you’re on an empty stomach and how fast you drink will impact how alcohol impacts your system.
If I get into an accident, I have insurance to cover me financially. In reality, no insurance company will cover your losses if it’s a case of drunk driving.
Reaching Home Safely
Take 250 ml of whiskey. Add a pinch of the inability to say “NO”. Take 3 tablespoons of reckless driving. You end up with 15 people on the rocks… literally. You can have all the fun you want. But it’s important to plan a little ahead about how you are going to get home safely after all the drinking and dancing. To begin with, you can drink responsibly. Following a few easy steps prevents you from getting drunk:
1. Eat well before you leave home. Food lines your stomach walls, slowing down the absorption of alcohol.
2. Know your limits. Test your boundaries when you’re at home. Remember, the chemical composition of your body impacts the absorption rate of alcohol.
3. Discourage friends from topping up your drink. With this, you lose count of how many glasses of alcohol you have had.
Plan the night well before you leave for the party. If you know that alcohol will be served, make arrangements accordingly. You can check out options like:
1. Hiring a car
2. Taking your own car, but hiring a driver
3. Carrying the number of a cab service
4. If possible, staying over at the host’s house
Drunk driving accidents are a sad reality and many lives have been lost and families destroyed due to this. So, while you enjoy yourself thoroughly, do think of your loved ones before you turn on the ignition of your car.
Wisdom From Down the Ages
Better safe than sorry – an old saying that holds much wisdom. If you’re a regular driver, it is definitely a good idea to take auto insurance to cover unfortunate events. A motor insurance policy can offer you great assistance in the event of an emergency. From 24×7 roadside assistance to cashless facility for vehicle repairs, you can avail of many conveniences. However, like mentioned in Myth #4, your auto insurance will not cover for mishaps that take place on account of drunk driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a severe offense that insurance companies discourage. If, however, you have suffered losses due to an accident for other reasons, you can expect help and financial assistance from your insurance company. This is not merely for your vehicle. A personal accident cover will ensure that your medical and hospital bills are taken care of in case of an injury caused by the accident.
Similarly, health insurance covers you for more eventualities than merely illnesses. It may cover road accidents too. In fact, you can get a comprehensive policy for your family. In case of hospitalization following a road accident, the policy will cover the expenses as well as offer you benefits.
No matter how good your insurance policy is, the only thing that can save you and your family from a lifetime of plight is safe driving. Remember, alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down your reaction speed and impairs your judgment. When you’ve had a couple of drinks and then turn on the ignition and drive onto the road, you are not only risking your own life and the life of the people in the car with you. You are also putting at risk the lives of all those people who are using that road at that time.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have consumed alcohol and the only way to get home is to drive, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Call someone and ask them to pick you up. Be ready to hear some taunts and lectures the next morning… but anything is better than a road accident. Here’s wishing you a long and healthy life!
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