Speed kills, but one lakh motorists don't really care

Respecting speed limits does not come naturally to Delhi drivers who are tempted to step on the gas on seeing a smooth and empty stretch of road even as traffic police struggle with inadequate manpower and speed guns to rein in the speeding killers on roads.

Till November 30, 1,18,998 speeding slips were issued by traffic police this year. Penalty for speeding was collected from 29,045 drivers in 2013. Still, motorists tend to ignore the maximum speed limit of 50 km per hour with impunity.

A traffic police officer said in most road accidents, the speeding drivers admit that they committed the act despite knowing well that it amounted to violating the law.

Also, drivers who overshoot the maximum speed limit are known to show scant regard for other road signs recommending slower speeds of about 30 km per hour outside schools and hospitals, he said.

As sun sets over the capital, some stretches of roads turn into play zones for racing freaks and if the drivers are under the influence of alcohol, the outcome is a dangerous cocktail of speed and death.

Shortage of night vision speed-guns also leaves traffic police helpless in collecting evidence against the culprits.

Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander said the law breakers need to be given a shock of deterrent penalty to instil discipline.

“We challan the offenders and also educate people through drives but the real change will have to come from within the drivers,” he said, welcoming the new Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014 which proposes a fine of Rs 5,000 for the first offence of speeding and recommends 100 per cent jump in the fine amount for the second and third offence.

The first offence of speeding currently invites a fine of Rs 400.
According to the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, a five per cent cut in average speed can result in 30 per cent reduction in the number of crashes.
Urban speed limits of 50 km per hour are proven to reduce injuries and deaths – a globally accepted norm which is borne out by the fact that 114 countries apply this speed limit.

Disagreeing with the suggestions that the enforcement of the rules is lax, Chander said, there are 85 lakh vehicles in the city and almost 50 lakh drivers on an average are prosecuted annually for traffic rule violations. “This shows that slack enforcement is just a myth,” he said.

For effective checks on speeding at night, over a dozen night vision speed-guns have been purchased by traffic police, he said.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment, the new road safety Bill should adopt a ‘vision zero goal that no one should die or get injured in the road transport system.

“Global experience shows that regular and visible enforcement on roads acts as a much stronger deterrence,” said an expert from the CSE, suggesting the reduction of speed limits at accident hotspots in cities.

Professor Geetam Tiwari, chair, transportation research and injury prevention programme, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, said there is corruption in the system which prevents strict following of rules.

On accidents caused due to speeding and other driver failures, she said: “You have to design systems for the worst road user.”

“What we need is intuitive thinking and policies that focus on drivers, vehicles and roads,” she said.

A V Srinivas, a representative of Global Road Safety Partnership, suggested adopting a novel penalty approach of detaining a drivers’ vehicle for two days in the event of speeding and drunk driving.

“The inconvenience caused by non-availability of his vehicle will teach the driver the right lesson,” he said.

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