It was widely reported last week that carrying drunk passengers in your car was illegal, and you could be punished for that. People worried about how to get back home after drinking, as the law would mean taxi drivers or friends would not be able to take you home. It was a ridiculous rule, they said.
How true is this? We did a little bit of digging and found what’s really going on. The short answer is, no one is going to punish you or arrest for you for carrying drunk passengers.
The long answer is, well, long. Read on.
The entire brouhaha started because an official from Kerala Transport Department said that this was the law. That is not exactly accurate.
What does the rule say?
The rule states, “The driver shall strictly comply with the laws of the time being in force relating to prohibition on consumption of alcohol and drugs and smoking, and also ensure compliance thereto by the other crew, rider and passengers, if any.” That is from the Motor Vehicles Bill. But the bill is not law – yet. For that to happen, the bill has to be passed by the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill. However, the Bill has been sent to a select committee by the Rajya Sabha where many changes are likely to be made. There is a good chance that this provision would not remain.
The select committee examines a bill clause by clause, and sometimes invites expert opinion. It is at this stage that we believe this provision would be removed, as it is well-known that worldwide, designated drivers are used to ferry drunk friends back home. And bars have, world over, called taxis for their drunk patrons.
After RS passes the bill, it is sent back to Lok Sabha where they may accept, or reject the changes. But approval by both houses of Parliament is needed for the bill to become an Act of Parliament, and law.
It is not applicable pan-India
The law is not enforceable yet, as the bill is not passed yet. The Kerala official is likely to have jumped the gun on this topic. If at all he is right, then it has to be a local, state-level law. We do not think so, based on all the reports that have come out yet. So nothing to worry, whether you are in Kerala or elsewhere.
No enforcement yet
Such drastic changes to law, when enforced, the normal practice is to inform the public first. That has not happened yet, anywhere, apart from that one statement by the Kerala official. Do not worry.
But why such a rule?
The new rule is to save the drivers from the nuisance created by intoxicated people. Kerala MVD says such people can diverge the attention of the driver and can lead to accidents. The rule is said to be for the safety of the car drivers.
They have a point here. In theory, a drunk passenger or passengers can be a dangerous distraction to the private car owner or taxi driver. However, on balance, the worldwide consensus is that the danger of letting a drunk man drive is much higher than that posed by a possible distraction by a drunk passenger.
What happens if the bill becomes law?
First, state governments will have to decide if they want to implement it. It will be very difficult, as traffic departments everywhere lack the manpower to monitor this additonal infraction.
If the law is implemented (after it actually becomes law), there will be various consequences. First of all, the number of people driving drunk will increase because the cabs are not allowed to drive intoxicated people. The livelihood of cab drivers will also be affected greatly after the ruling comes into place. Will it reduce drunk driving related accidents? Probably not, as such people will start driving themselves. Also, it seldom happens that an inebriated passenger causes nuisance in the car to distract the driver.
Keep checking the space. We will update as we get more information on the same. For now, do not worry.