Hyderabad: The city’s tipplers seem to be in a ‘jail bharo’ mode, if the number of those imprisoned on drunken driving charges is any indication.
A continued and intensified crackdown on those driving in an inebriated condition in the city, along with increased conviction rates, has seen the number of imprisonments in drunken driving cases going up steadily since 2014. There were 2,569 imprisonments from 15,389 cases in 2014, while the same in 2016 was 7,323 imprisonments from 16,633 cases. Till February 28 this year, the number of imprisonments has already reached 915 from 2,612 cases.
The period of imprisonment has varied, from one day to five days and for some, it was in the form of standing till the rising of the court.
The reasons for the steady increase are quite a few. Regular checking by the police at random spots, and always ensuring a ‘surprise element’, has been one of the most crucial ones, according to Jitender, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic).
“The regular checking has made people change their habits, trying to avoid the police. We also changed our habits accordingly, and kept catching them,” he says in a lighter vein, but points out that getting away with drunken driving was no more easy in the city.
The standard operating procedure (SOP) of the Hyderabad Traffic Police, said to be among the most stringent ones among all metro cities, too has played a crucial role. The vehicle is seized on the spot, with the person caught for drunken driving sent home only in a cab or other vehicle.
He would have to appear for a counselling session at the Traffic Training Institute as well, after which he would be produced before court.
More recently, the Traffic police have taken a strict stance on repeat offenders with the help of a digital database of all those caught for drunken driving. The database, available on real-time basis with the checking teams, gives info whether the person has been caught for the same charge earlier, and such repetition of a dangerous offence almost ensures imprisonment, a senior official said.
The penalty paid by drunken drivers too has shown a steady increase. From Rs 31.15 lakh in 2011, it was Rs 2.07 crore in 2015. The figure shot up to Rs 2.98 crore in 2016, while in 2017, till February 28, Rs 34 lakh has already been collected.
Year Starts On A Sour Note
The biggest crackdown on drunken driving in the city in 2017 was on the first day of the year itself. New Year revelry saw 1,627 persons being booked for the offence in just under seven hours. In Hyderabad city limits, 990 cases were booked, while in Rachakonda and Cyberabad limits, 637 cases were booked.
And on January 21 came one of the largest numbers of imprisonments for drunken driving on a single day, when 407 persons were punished for varying periods of imprisonment by two city courts. These were persons caught till January 19. A fine of Rs 23.66 lakh was collected from them.