Fine increase move good, now implement it

Traffic police stop vehicles for traffic rules violation on Outer Ring road near Nagarabhavi in Bengaluru. DH Photo/Janardhan B K

The steep hike in fines for traffic violations announced by the Karnataka government is a step in the right direction as it will hopefully bring some order to the roads, especially in cities like Bengaluru, and make them safer both for motorists and pedestrians. Such deterrents are the need of the hour as India accounts for 11% of global road accident fatalities, with nearly 1.5 lakh deaths reported each year, according to the International Road Federation. Karnataka is among the top states that have a high incidence of road accidents with about 10,000 fatalities per year. Bengaluru recorded 684 road deaths in 2018, with pedestrians accounting for 40% of them, a majority of whom were killed while crossing the road. While much depends on how strictly and honestly the rules are implemented by the traffic police, not much can be achieved unless the motorists themselves develop some road sense, which at present is woefully lacking.

Concerns have been raised by citizens that the hike will increase corruption as motorists would prefer greasing the palms of policemen rather than pay a hefty fine. However, such fears are allayed by Bengaluru’s Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) P Harishekaran, who points out that 90-95% of the violations are recorded by 1,000 cameras installed across the city which directly send vehicle details to the traffic management centre, which in turn dispatches the challan to the address of the motorists. The 10-fold increase in fine for parking in non-designated areas has also drawn the ire of the people as Bengaluru lacks properly defined parking slots, while ‘no parking’ boards have been installed by the police on almost all roads. The move to collect heavy fines without first providing for sufficient parking space is seen as fleecing the public. To make matters worse, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is yet to respond to a proposal from the police to create parking zones on government land that is lying vacant.

With statistics showing a steady increase in the number of cases booked for traffic offences over the years, it is doubtful if fines and other punitive measures alone will serve as a deterrent. The Motor Vehicles Act should be amended to make community service, like cleaning public spaces for specified hours, a mandatory punishment for certain traffic violations, an approach that has been found to be effective in some countries, while repeat offenders should be sent for counselling. Steps should also be taken to make roads safe from the engineering perspective as black spots account for 90% of fatal accidents in the country. Unless a holistic approach is adopted, road safety will remain a pipe dream.

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