Private bus drivers tinker with speed-limiting device to set high cut-off speed, say officials

Even as speeding private buses continue to indulge in a killing spree, the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) has admitted that speed governors have failed to prevent fatal accidents in the city.

Installing speed governors, set at an optimum speed of 60 km per hour, is mandatory for private buses. But the device has failed to curtail drivers from speeding owing to a variety of reasons.

A senior MVD official told The Hindu that private buses could never touch 60 km per hour within city limits. This meant that accidents were not always caused due to speeding.

“A driver can be rash and negligent even at a speed of 40 km. On a narrow road, recklessness could be just as fatal as over-speeding. Rather than the maximum speed, it’s the optimal speed permissible in a given circumstance that’s decisive,” he said.

A Union government notification, expected to come in to force next year, is likely to render speed governors meaningless. The notification proposes to fix the cut-off speed at 80 km per hour. One fails to understand what purpose then will the device serve in a State like Kerala where even the current cut-off speed has failed to stop accidents.

At present, instances of tampering, disconnecting speed governors have come to light. Errant drivers with alarming regularity have managed to set the device at a higher cut-off speed. Bus operators ostensibly resort to such measures to correct technical glitches in the device. They claim making minor adjustments are unavoidable as such snags reduced the power of the vehicle and made it difficult to climb steep ascents.

The enforcement of speed governors has turned out to be a big headache for MVD officials. They say it is easy to detect non-installation of speed governors and its disconnection, but spotting manipulation of the device is a challenge.

They said companies that supplied the speed governors reneged on their promise to provide the MVD with hand-held equipment to detect such offences. The equipment when attached to a bus would have revealed the cut-off speed limit set in the speed governor.

Bus operators on their part said they were forced to resort to tampering due to poor after-sale services.

The MVD official said replacing speed governors with Global Positioning System was perhaps the only solution to check over-speeding private buses.

“The system will facilitate better enforcement. The MVD can fall back on the GPS reading to determine whether a bus involved in an accident was over-speeding. He said it was high time such a system was introduced in a phased manner in the public transport system. It would cost only less than what the bus operators shelled out for installing speed governors, he said.

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