Cities » Kochi

Updated: May 4, 2013 01:32 IST

Lax penalty emboldens errant bus drivers in city

  • John L. Paul
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Drivers and crew of private buses involved in road accidents being let off lightly has been cited as a major reason for the audacity with which they violate traffic rules.

Private buses were involved in the death of 23 persons in areas coming under City Traffic Police-East from 2011 to 2013. Similar accidents also resulted in grievous injury or permanent disability to 13 road users in the same period.

However, only five drivers were remanded to judicial custody for 14 days and all of them obtained bail within two or three days.

The driving licence of those who cause death and grievous injury is seldom cancelled. The licence is suspended for a year or more in case of accidents that cause death and for six months in case of grievous injury.

It is three months in the case of drunken driving. Such insignificant measures embolden drivers and they continue to drive recklessly, intimidating and mowing down road users.

“Even as existing penal measures fail to be a deterrent, collection batta and unhealthy competition among bus owners and crew are cited as reasons for the malaise. Following the liberalised permit policy, bus owners can choose any route.

This results in an influx of too many buses in a few lucrative routes, while there is a shortfall in other routes. Thanks to batta, the drivers make a mad rush to their destination and this causes accidents,” said the Ernakulam RTO B.J. Antony.

It is also important that drivers involved in accidents attend counselling and training programmes arranged by the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD). The department now plans to trace errant drivers and make it mandatory for them to attend classes.

Most buses in lucrative routes such as Aluva and Kakkanad make a daily profit of Rs.2,000 or more.

The buses were involved in more accidents than those in other routes because of reckless driving, MVD sources said. With the number of buses with city permit limited to 630, most existing operators make a sound profit, thanks to the increase in floating population and the number of people who prefer to reside in the city. “Frequent fare hikes have further increased their profit margin,” the sources said.

Anomalies in fixing the running time of buses also prompt competition. The proposal to delegate powers to RTOs to fix the running time in their region is long-pending.

The State Transport Authority fixes the running time, irrespective of variations in traffic pattern in different cities and towns. Attempts to streamline bus services are challenged before court by bus owners.

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