Friday, April 20, 2007

How to get more compliance with traffic laws ?

It has now been a few days since the Delhi Police started its push towards punishing traffic violations. This is inspired (as so many things in India currently are) from the Court pushing for compounding fees for traffic violations, and hence the minimum fine being moved to Rs. 600. Now, if I look at such a move, it would be strictly a policy decision to be made by the Government in terms of fines and enforcement, but over the past decade or so, the Government typically only talks about doing something about fines, but nothing more. It is essentially then left to the court to step into the policy gap, and eventually decide policies.
Another thing that puzzles me is when the Traffic police were asked about this special drive, it emerged that the same number of policemen would be used as in the past. If the same number of policemen are being used for a special drive, then why cannot every day be a special day ? Why can't it happen that the incredibly massive number of traffic violations that happen everyday are reduced, and the brazen way in which people ignore rules as per their convenience are stopped?
We all know what I am talking about. People reach a stop light, and do 2 violations then and there. They cross the zebra crossing by some distance, putting pedestrians at great risk. In addition, as soon as they see that no one is crossing the traffic signal from the other side, they will zoom through. It seems so funny, I am reminded of the term 'creeping acquisition', the way that people reach the red line, and then slowly move ahead inch by inch while the light is red. In this way, they cover around 3-5 meters while the light is still red, and then they zoom away when the light changes.
There have been explicit instructions in the past few weeks about how coloured film is illegal, but at a very rough statistic (by looking at passing cars), I estimate that around 30% of cars still have films on the windows. Maybe people really feel that they are not going to get affected, or maybe being in Delhi, they feel that they can either use some sort of contact to get away or pay a bit of money and get away. The sad part is that they can actually do this and get away in reality. And using mobile phones, not wearing seat belts / helmets are rules violated pretty highly.
Many times I feel that the traffic police is really not serious. I remember once receiving a fine of Rs. 100 by post for crossing a red light (I don't remember that part, but I would say that, wouldn't I?), and then going to pay it at the police station. Once done, I was generally talking to people about this, and they were all surprised that I went ahead and paid the fine. Apparently nobody follows up, and hence people just tear the ticket that they receive via the post. This seemed so shocking to me, how can people just treat a ticket sent by a police authority in such a casual way, but apparently this is how the city of Delhi works.
What can be done? I believe that only a strict vigil can work, a time of zero tolerance. People have to learn that traffic laws are meant to be obeyed, not followed at a person's own discretion. After all, when one is travelling on the road, we are not only responsible for our own safety, but that of others on the road. At the same time, traffic policemen have to develop a perception of being incorruptible, and that seems equally difficult.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:35 AM