SC Liquor Ban On Highways: Would It Make Them Safer?


In continuation of its judgement of December 15, the Supreme Court on Friday reiterated its order on banning liquor vends across national and state highways and said it is also applicable to hotels and restaurants. While the hospitality industry estimates that close to 1 million employees might lose their jobs, the question is how safe does it make our roads and would it cut down the number of accidents that we see on Indian highways?

There is close to one death every 4 minutes due to road accidents in India. What’s absolutely distressing is that almost 60 road accidents happen every hour on Indian roads and 16-17 of them invariably result in death. In 2015 alone over 5 lakh road accidents were accounted for and the number is rising every month. Despite the liquor ban on state and national highways, a whopping 48% of the accidents happen on roads that are not highways. National Highways account for 28% of the accidents while state highways see 24% of them. But the rate of fatalities on highways is the largest.

According to an independent study conducted by some organisations, apart from drunken driving, there are some other key reasons for road accidents as well. Indian roads rank quite low in terms of road safety. Driver error is the reason for accident in close to 80% of the instance. This apart from drunken driving is also because of

-Driver’s vision error

-Lack of appropriate accounting by license issuing authorities

-Medical fitness too is a matter of concern

-In terms of car safety too, many features like ABS are still optional in several car models.

Apart from this road conditions are also questionable in many regions. While the man behind this ban, Harman Sidhu and his crusade against road safety is completely justified, I feel the need for accountability is the greatest pre-condition to make roads safe in India. While the highway ban might minimise liquor sale on highways, there is no way to ascertain if it can really cut down drunken driving.

Accountability and proper checking is important. Drivers should not get away with buying bulk of liquor crates from cities, more checks need to be in place to control drunken driving and other kinds of driver related judgement errors. Most importantly the tests conducted by driving license issuing authorities need to be better structured and more stringent. The ease of bribing and getting a license need to be stopped and those indulging in it should be punished.

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