The holiday season is upon us again, and with the roads of the state, especially in Dimapur and Kohima, for once (and for a brief moment) permitting relatively smooth driving, ‘tis also the season where tragedies traditionally strike.
Criminal sanctions, awareness campaigns and frequent cautionary tales of accidents and deaths have not been enough to eliminate the scourge of drinking and driving.
While any recent state-wide data on road accidents is not available, the Dimapur Police earlier in the year revealed that the town is witnessing increasing incidence of vehicular accidents.
Of the 27 road-related cases registered in 2015, 14 were fatal. It increased to 49 accidents and 25 fatalities in 2016. In 2017 (upto June), the town had already recorded 22 road accidents and 20 deaths. And this only includes those reported to the police.
This is compounded with the almost non-existent processing of drunk-driving charges by the police, unless an accident tragically involves death.
People who normally consider themselves as ‘responsible members of society’ become emboldened by the very libation that make them a hazard to their own health and public safety.
They slip into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition and take a chance. If luck is on their side, they arrive at their destination unscathed, and without causing harm to innocent people.
It’s a high-risk, low-reward chance that’s not worth taking. Choosing to drink and drive is a potentially life-altering (or ending) decision.
And unfortunately this is a decision that is made more often during this time of the year, when the holiday and alcoholic spirits flow freely. Also, let’s not pretend that prohibition actually works in the state.
The police can do only so much when it comes to curbing this hazard. They can create awareness, which is being done; and they can charge people for drunk driving, which is unfortunately found lacking. The latter becomes more complicated in Nagaland’s case, with people mostly choosing to settle things themselves, compounded with the prohibition obfuscating simple Driving under Influence (DUI) charges.
Also note that seizing cases of alcohol, either by the police or the ‘community’ do not count.
Ultimately, the key to addressing this public hazard is personal.
There have already been too many warm holiday memories which have been marred by tragic alcohol related accidents. Let us as individuals choose not to add to that list.
By all means, enjoy the season. However if you do choose to partake in the holiday ‘cheer,’ do so responsibly.
Ideally always, and especially these next few weeks, choose not to drive under influence; and long before you take that first sip, make transportation plans which ensure that you get home safe.
This is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to your loved ones and to your community during this season of ‘cheer.’
The writer is an Associate Editor at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org