Drunken driving

It all started with helmet-must regulation for pillion riders. Then came the seat belts. And now the Valley Traffic Police Office is planning to introduce a new set of rules on drunken driving — those found driving in an inebriated condition would soon be losing their driving licences. Given Nepal’s poor road safety record, changes like this one in the existing driving guidelines were long overdue. Although not all accidents that occur in the country are a result of drunken driving, the habit in question nonetheless is a cause of several avoidable accidents. Under this circumstance, the new rule is praiseworthy.

Driving is not so much a fun as it is a responsibility. It is essential for the one at the wheels to be responsible and follow the traffic rules during which the driver’s sensory perception must not be under any kind of stress. The nature of the job occasionally calls on the drivers to take split decisions in the nick of time, which might as well mean a difference between life and death. At such times the drivers under any kind of influence of drugs or alcohol are less likely to take right decisions than their non-drinking counterparts. This means the lives of those in the vehicle driven by a drunken driver are at a greater risk of meeting with accidents. The need, therefore, for drivers to refrain from taking the steering wheel intoxicated has always been there. The latest move, hence, should succeed in making a difference. Although the easy availability of alcoholic beverages is to blame for much of drunken driving, needless to mention domestic violence and street brawls, tightening the screws on drivers is likely to pay off — finally. It is a different matter altogether that the proportion of smokers and alcoholics in Nepal has soared in recent years.

Lofty as the new rule is, it is however difficult to implement the decree unless the traffic police enforce it through frequent surprise checks. Just as the enforcement of the helmet-must and seatbelt rules, the new one should also be pursued with the same vigour if drunken-driving is to be stopped. The public too has a responsibility in helping the police by respecting the rule and cooperating during checks. That traffic accidents are a major threat in Nepal, there is no reason why the public cannot do so for their own safety. But it also makes it incumbent on the police officers to be careful not to dock the innocent drivers. Personal likes or dislikes must never be the criteria. The guardians of the law must define the cut-off limit of intoxication based on clear and unambiguous guidelines. Providing a window of time before the new rules come into effect will help the drivers acclimatise with the change and frequent check ups.