Driver Impairment

When a driver’s ability to drive is reduced due to some reason it can be dangerous to the driver and those around him/her. The reason for driver impairment can be blamed on factors like fatigue, injury, infirmity, natural ageing, consumption of alcohol/drug or a combination of these. The most common driver impairment however are ‘fatigue’ and ‘consumption of alcohol/drugs’. They are a real and major problem on the roads. Science has proved over and over the link between alcohol consumption and crash involvement cause reduced driving ability.

Drinking and driving

‘Drunk driving’, 'Driving under the influence' (DUI), 'driving while impaired' (DWI) or whatever you decide to call it, is considered to be one of the most hazardous acts one can do on public roads. This has been recognized as one of the main causes of death and injuries on the roads.

Many countries have imposed rules to reduce the frightening statistics of accidents caused because of driving under the influence. For one, there are laws which prohibit driving while intoxicated. The maximum allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is set to make sure that people do not drink and drive. BAC measures the amount of alcohol in the blood and is noted as 'weight by volume'. This may vary slightly between countries.

In India the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.03% or 30 µl alcohol in 100 ml blood. Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable under Section 185 MVA'88. A Breath Analyzer is used to detect the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath. The higher the concentration of alcohol in the blood, the more is the loss of driving ability. This is mainly because the reaction time slows down, concentration becomes impaired, confidence increases, muscle coordination, visual and auditory ability reduces.

The following drugs are deemed (by the Central Government) to impact a person’s ability to drive:

  • Central Nervous System Depressants (Cocaine & Cannabis)
  • Hypnotic Sedatives
  • Narcotic Analgesics (Morphine etc.)
  • Psychotropic drugs (LSD)
  • Stimulants
  • Tranquilizers (Diazepam etc.).

Studies conducted

There have been quite a few studies conducted to properly understand the correlation between accidents and blood alcohol concentration levels, for example the 'Grand Rapids' study which was conducted in Michigan, USA between 1962-63. This study was one of the first studies of its kinds and influenced the establishment of laws regarding driving under the influence in America. In 2002 there was a study conducted in Long Beach, California and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. These studies have time and again highlighted the importance of having strict laws in place when it comes to drinking and driving.

One particular study, Compton et al (2002), pointed out that the risk of crashes increases with BAC above 0.04 g/100ml. Further, it showed that the risk accelerates quickly if BAC is above 0.1 g/100ml. If the BAC of a driver is 0.1, which is double the level that’s allowed in many European countries, the relative risk of crashing will be more than four times that of the person with BAC level zero. If the BAC level is at 0.15, the risk of crashing will be over 20 times than that of the person with BAC level zero.


The first time a driver is booked for driving under the influence of alcohol, he/she may be booked under the first offense, charged with a fine of up to Rs. 2000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months. If the same person repeats the offense within 3 years of the first offence, then a fine of Rs. 3000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years may be imposed.

The punishment for driving while drunk may vary depending on the level of alcohol in the blood. If the level of alcohol in the blood is less than 30 mg per 100 ml of blood, it will not be counted as an offence. If the level of alcohol is between 30-60 mg per 100 ml of blood, the punishment could be imprisonment for up to 6 months and/or a fine of Rs. 2,000. If the level of alcohol is between 60-150 mg per 100 ml of blood, the punishment would be imprisonment for up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs. 4,000. If the same person repeats the offense within 3 years of the first offence, then a fine of Rs. 8000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years may be imposed.

If the level of alcohol in the blood is found to be over 150 mg per 100 ml of blood, he/she may be imprisoned for up to 2 years and fined Rs. 5,000. If the same person repeats the offense within 3 years of the first offence, then a fine of Rs. 10,000 will be charged and it would warrant a jail penalty. Also the licence will be cancelled.

Licence may be revoked for a period of up to 6 months for the first offence and will be cancelled permanently if it is repeated.

Who has the right to conduct a Breath Test?

A police officer who is in uniform/ an officer of the Motor Vehicles Department has the right to ask a person who is driving a vehicle, or attempting to drive in a public place to take a Breath Test. If the breath test proves that the driver has been drinking and the amount of alcohol in the blood is above the level permitted by law, the officer/police officer can arrest the said person without warrant (unless the person is hospitalized).

A person who refuses/fails to take the test can also be arrested by an officer/police officer. If a person is arrested after being identified as ‘drunk’, he/she must be subjected to a medical examination by a registered medical practitioner within two hours of the test. If this is not followed through, the person will have to be released.

What is a Breath Test?

A 'breath test' is done by means of a Central Government approved device. It basically indicates the presence of alcohol in a person's blood. The test is carried out by a person blowing into the device, once or multiple times.

When does one take a Laboratory Test?

The breath test is only the preliminary screening test conducted on a person who is suspected of having a higher level of alcohol than permitted by law to drive. If the person is found to have a high level of alcohol in their system, then a Laboratory Test is conducted. A Laboratory Test is more reliable. The main reason of conducting a Breath Test is because it is convenient in a field setting and allows a preliminary screening. The Breath Test reduces the chances of an innocent person having to go through the ordeal of having a laboratory test just because an officer suspects him/her. The result makes the suspicion of an officer scientific, credible and objective. For a laboratory test, the person will be required to provide blood for testing.


News About Driver Impairment

  • 85 Driving Licence Suspended

    Sanjay Sharma, Licensing Officer and District Transport Officer, stated that about 85 driving licences were suspended in Jaipur as drivers were caught driving more than the permissible speed. These drivers will be supervised for three months till then they cannot drive.

    Most of the drivers were caught for violating traffic rules like using phone while driving, drunk driving, and carrying passengers in a goods vehicle.

    Jaipur Traffic Police stated that they also use handheld devices to immediately print out a e-challan in English language and forward it to the court. The device also helps in retrieving pending e-challan amounts that a driver has to pay.

    18 August 2017

  • Driving Offences Might Lead to License Suspension

    A penalty points systems is going to start in Hyderabad where the frequent traffic violations can lead to driving license suspension. This particular system will be launched on August 1, 2017. The system has been designed by the traffic police department of Hyderabad. Different points ranging between 1 and 5 will be awarded for traffic violations. This is the first time that such a system is being introduced in any state in India. The objective of the systems is to give rise to self discipline among the commuters. If a person gets 12 points in a period of 24 months, his/her Driving License will be suspended for a year.

    14 July 2017

  • 20% slump in drunken driving cases after SC order

    There has been a drop in the number of drunken driving cases in Chennai after the Supreme Court order which states that alcohol should not be sold within 500 metres of national and state highways. Drunken driving has slumped by 20% post this in the city, as per information obtained from the police. On an average, from January to March, there were 2,423 cases registered on a monthly basis. However, in May, after the alcohol sale ban within 500 metres from highways, the number dropped to 1,929. According to sources, drinking and driving is on the rise in many suburban parts of the city./p>

    6 July 2017

  • Cops will fill the form in case of road accidents

    The Delhi Police Department will not be able to run away from their duties in case of accidents happening on the roads. Now, the Delhi police will also have to fill up the road accident form along with writing the information report. The Ministry of Central Road Transportation intends to reduce the number of road accidents. Thus, the Ministry has come up with this form in which the road accident details will be mentioned. All of these information on the form must be filled up by officials of Delhi police at the time of registering the accident FIR. This form has been sent out to all the states. Central Government has made it mandatory to fill up this form.

    The wrong doings and the mistakes in the accident are noted on the form by the police so that these can be checked and avoided in the future. This form consists of 25 pages and is equipped to include full details of the accidents. This form has been prepared by senor officers from the Health Ministry, Transportation Commisioner of Tripura, Transportation ADG and Tamil Nadu Police, World Health Organisation, senior officers from IIT Kharagpur and senior officers from IIT Delhi.

    22 June 2017

  • Drive against drunken driving

    The police in Tamilnadu have started keeping a strict vigil on drunken driving cases to help bring down the accident rate, which has been on the rise in the state.

    Checking will be done on a priority on weekends, especially on Friday’s and Saturday’s. The driving licenses of violators will be suspended and they will be booked under the Motor Vehicles Act.

    19 June 2017

  • Advance Digital Breathalyzers introduced

    On New Year’s Eve, 85 advanced digital breathalyzers were introduced and on the very first day over 500 drunk drivers were caught and asked to pay fines through e-challans. These advanced machines have ensured that no driver can be lax as unlike manual challans their records will be maintained with photographs and other details.

    These new machines are connected to a server at traffic police headquarters and issue e-challans on the spot with evidence being the offender’s photographs. These photos are clicked as soon as they blow into breathalyzers. According to a report, a 47% increase in cases of Drunk Driving has been noted as compared to 2012.

    08 February 2016

  • Drunken driving in Chandigarh could result in suspension of DL

    An increase in the number of incidents involving drunk driving has prompted authorities to take strict action against offenders in Chandigarh. This follows a recent court ruling where the driving license of 7 individuals who were caught for drunk driving was suspended. As per the recommendation of the court, the driving license of individuals caught for drunk driving should be suspended for a period of 3 months. The move is likely to reduce the case of incidents involving drunk drivers. A total of 4,600 challans have been issued against drunk driving this year, an increase of over 1,000 from 2015.

    The Traffic Department in the city has been strict, with suspension of DL for offences ranging from jumping signals, over-speeding, overloading vehicles, using mobile phones while driving, etc. The period for suspension was 3 months in these incidents as well. In cases where the DL is issued by a different state, the issuing authorities will be intimated before the license in suspended.

    5 January 2017

  • Two dozen DLs seized

    On Friday the Chandigarh Traffic Police seized over two dozen Driving Licenses following an ordered by the Supreme Court to seize and cancel the Driving License of drivers caught drunk driving, over speeding, overloading and talking on their mobile phones while driving. On 10th October the notification was sent and last Friday was the first day of the drive. Licenses of first-time offenders will also be suspended if caught in violation of any of the above rules.

    22 November 2016

  • High Court orders to pay the accident victim

    The Bombay High Court has ordered that insurance companies must make payments towards the insured’s coverage even if he/she has fake or unauthorized DL. The order had come after the court heard an appeal made by Oriental Insurance Company against the claims act.

    In the year 1990, Shivaji Dabhade, a resident of Nashik was going with colleague on a tractor. In an accident, the vehicle got upturned. Dabhade died in that accident but his colleague survived. When Dabhade’s wife asked for the compensation, the insurance company stated that he was carrying fake driving license. Justice Sadhana Jadhav dismissed all the arguments made by the company. She said that the owner must have checked such details before hiring the driver. She also added that the high court found an error in the way the tribunal is ruling.

    15 November 2016

  • 3,769 challans issued by RTO in last 6 months

    The RTO in Dehradun has issued 3769 challans in the last 6 months. They have also seized 537 vehicles for taking wrong routes.

    Between April 1, 2016 and September 20, 2016 these challans were issued for violation of traffic rules. When compared to the phase during last year, challan issuance has gone up by 40% this year. The enforcement team of the transport department have given the challans to 2,170 vehicles and have seized 371 vehicles.

    Out of the 3,769 vehicles that were issued challans, 1,668 vehicles were without any licence. For 31 people, driving licence was suspended for drink and drive.

    30 September 2016

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