Laws against Drink and Drive

Laws against Drink and Drive

The article ‘Laws against Drink and Drive’ by Shami Anjali is an intensive study about the harmful effects of drinking alcohol. This article also scrutinizes legislative enactments which prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol.


Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence in India, and it can lead to major fines and imprisonment. According to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways Report published in 2022, there were 4,12,432 unfortunate incidences of road accidents in 2021 [1]. These are the number of cases reported. The actual number of incidents may be much higher. More than three thousand three hundred such cases have resulted in death.

Legal Drinking Age in India

The legal drinking age in India differs from one state to another, the regulation of alcohol consumption comes under the state list. In most states, the legal drinking age is 21 years. In some states like Goa, Puducherry, and Andhra Pradesh, the legal drinking age prescribed is 18 years. It is worth noting that even in these states where the legal drinking age is 18, the purchase and consumption of alcohol by minors is prohibited and can result in severe legal consequences.

Dangers of Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving are dangerous and can lead to severe outcomes, both for the driver and for other road users. Some of the dangers of drinking and driving are given below:

1. Impaired Judgment and Coordination: Alcohol can impair judgment and coordination, making it difficult for drivers to make good decisions and respond quickly to road hazards.

2. Reduced reflexes: Alcohol can slow down reflex actions, making it more difficult for drivers to respond quickly to unexpected events, such as a zebra crossing on the street or a car emergency braking in front of them.

3. Reduction in Vision and Hearing: Alcohol can also reduce vision and hearing senses, making it difficult for drivers to view and hear different voices of the people.

4. Risk of accidents: All of the above scenarios result in a higher risk of accidents, drivers who drink and drive are much more likely to be involved in crashes than those who do not.

5. Legal consequences: Drinking and driving are also illegal in India, and drivers caught can face major fines, suspension or revocation of their driver’s license, and even imprisonment in some cases.

6. Risk to other road users: Finally, drinking and driving puts the driver at risk, and endangers other road users such as passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. The outcome is severe injuries or even fatalities for innocent people.

Can Drinking be considered a Fundamental Right in India?

Drinking is not a fundamental right in India. Indian Constitution does not explicitly confer the right to consume alcohol. The regulation of alcohol consumption is a state matter in India. The state has its own laws and regulations regarding the sale, consumption, and distribution of alcohol.

Let us scrutinise various landmark judgments for a clear understanding of the question, i.e. whether drinking alcohol is a Fundamental Right or not.

1. State of Gujrat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat [2] – In this case, the Gujrat High Court ruled that drinking of alcohol is not a Fundamental Right under the Constitution of India. Court stated that individuals might have the freedom to consume alcohol, but this freedom is not absolute and have some reasonable restriction associated with it.

2. State of Tamil Nadu v. K. Balu [3] – Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of state law prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol within 500 meters of state and national highways. The court stated that the state had a legitimate interest in reducing the unfortunate incidents of drunk driving and thus promoting public safety and justified the state decision.

3. Amod Kumar v. Union of India [4] – In this case, the claim of the petitioner was that the government’s decision to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in certain areas was not constitutional, and it infringed his fundamental right to privacy. The Supreme Court rejected this argument and held that the government had a legitimate interest in regulating alcohol sales and consumption for the purpose of public safety and health.

Hence it can be concluded that individuals may have some freedom to sell and consume alcohol but this freedom is not absolute and is subject to some reasonable restrictions to ensure public safety and health.

Impact of drunken driving on a Vehicle Insurance Policy

Driving under the influence of alcohol has a significant impact on vehicle insurance policies in India. Here are some of the ways in which it adversely affects insurance policies:

1. Cancellation of Policy: Drunken Driving amounts to a violation of traffic laws and is considered negligent and irresponsible behaviour. If an accident happens while the driver is drunk, the insurance company has the right to cancel the policy of the driver. In this case, the driver is liable to bear the entire cost of the damage caused to his vehicle and other property.

2. Increase in Premiums: The insurance company possess the right to increase the premiums for the policy or impose any additional charges if it is found that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol. This is because the driver is considered to be at a higher risk of causing accidents and making claims on the insurance policy.

3. Loss of no-claim bonus: A no-claim bonus (NCB) is a discount that is offered by insurance companies for not making any claims during the policy term. If an accident occurs while the driver is drunk, the insurance company also possess the right to revoke the NCB of the driver, which ultimately leads to higher premiums in the future.

4. Non-coverage of claims: The insurance company is not liable to cover the claims made by the policyholder if the accident is a result of drunken driving. This simply means that in spite of having an insurance policy, the driver would have to bear the entire cost of the damage caused to the vehicle and other property.

It is hence very pertinent to note that driving under the influence of alcohol not only violates traffic laws but also has a serious impact on safety that can result in harm to oneself and others. Therefore, it is important for all drivers to drive responsibly and never drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Act for Penalizing the Act of driving under the influence of Alcohol in India

In India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 penalizes the act of driving under the influence of alcohol. Section 185 of the Act prescribes the punishment for drunken driving. The section states:

whoever, while driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle, has alcohol concentration exceeding the prescribed limit, shall be punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees, or with both. For a second or subsequent offence, the punishment is imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine which may extend to fifteen thousand rupees, or with both. In addition to the penalties, the driving license of the offender may also be suspended or revoked, depending on the gravity of the offence.

Is it illegal to drive when you are drunk? Is the penalty same for all vehicles?

Yes, it is illegal to drive when you are under the influence of alcohol beyond certain permissible limits. Section 185(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 describes the maximum permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers of motor vehicles as 30 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.03%. This limit applies to all drivers, regardless of their age or the type of vehicle they are operating. If a driver is found to have a BAC above this limit, they can be charged with drunken driving. Below this concentration, it is deemed to be legal. However, it is best to avoid driving after consuming any amount of alcohol to ensure safety. The penalty prescribed also is the same for drinking and driving in India, regardless of the type or size of the vehicle.

Role of Alcohol in Road Accidents

Alcohol is one of the major contributors to road accidents in India. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in 2022, driving under the influence of alcohol contributed to around 5% of all road accidents and about 7.5% of all road accident deaths in India. This indicates that alcohol-related accidents are a significant problem in the country and highlight the need to strictly enforce the laws related to drinking and driving.

Driving under the influence of alcohol has serious consequences like impairing a driver’s judgment his reaction time and adversely impacting his motor skills, making it difficult to control the vehicle and avoid collisions. Alcohol consumption can also lead to negligent behaviour, such as speeding, jumping red lights, and overtaking unsafely, which ultimately results in a higher risk of accidents. It is, therefore, important for all drivers to absolutely refrain from driving after consuming alcohol, always follow the Traffic rules and regulations and prioritize the safety of oneself and others on the road.


[1] Ministry of Road Transport &Highways – Annual report, Available Here

[2] AIR 1998 Guj 220, (1999) 3 GLR 2007

[3] Civil Appeal Nos. 12164-12166 of 2016

[4] Writ Petition (Civil) No. 918 of 2017

Important Links

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