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Updated: January 17, 2012 11:08 IST

When conscience also flees the spot

Mohit M. Rao
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The Hindu

Hit-and-run cases up 30 per cent in three years

It occurs with depressing frequency, and the trend is on the rise: a vehicle knocks down a motorist, a cyclist or a pedestrian, and speeds away, leaving the hapless victim to fend for himself. And more often than not, the culprit is not traced.

According to statistics furnished by the Bangalore Traffic Police, 2,006 hit-and-run cases were reported in 2011 with 299 fatalities, compared with 1,935 cases (273 deaths) in 2010 and 1,731 (198 deaths) in 2009. These figures mark more than a 30 per cent increase in fatalities in the last three years.

For these cases, the detection rate, though on the rise, is poor. In cases of fatalities where the vehicle number is not known, 15 per cent of cases were solved in 2009, while the number rose to 28 per cent in 2010. With 61 cases under investigation, and 53 cases closed, only 11 per cent of fatal accidents have been solved in 2011.

“Many accidents occur in the middle of the night with no eyewitnesses. Then it becomes almost impossible to trace the culprit,” said M.A. Saleem, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security). Another disturbing trend in these statistics is the number of undetected cases for accidents where the vehicle numbers were known. In 2009, 141 cases were undetected; in 2010, it was 167 (with two under investigation), while in 2011, 26 were undetected, while 142 are still under investigation.

The police say that most of these undetected cases involved private vehicles — most commonly lorries — whose drivers leave the vehicle and flee. “In such cases, we can only trace the vehicle owner. In most cases, owners have had only sketchy details about the drivers, making it almost impossible to trace them,” said a traffic police official.

The lack of records in Regional Transport Offices also hinders investigation, said the police. “RTOs in other districts are not computerised. Getting ownership details becomes difficult, and when the ownership has changed, tracking the new owner becomes impossible,” said Mr. Saleem.

However, with the traffic police increasingly using technology and surveillance cameras (with around 180 cameras operational in the city), Mr. Saleem hoped that the detection rate would increase. For example, after businessman Arjun Hari Nair (28) was run over in the early hours of September 15 on Ramana Maharshi Road, policemen tracked down the cab driver with the help of images taken from cameras as well as GPS coordinates to identify the taxi.

However, the department's experiment with social media has not yielded fruit, as was demonstrated when a video of a hit-and-run, where a car knocked down a motorist on Hosur Road, was uploaded on the Internet. “Even though the video had more than 53,000 views, we still have not traced the car in question,” said Mr. Saleem.

There was also a conscious effort to get the garage owners in loop to solve hit-and-run cases, he said. “We have a good network with garage owners, who inform us if a car that is brought into the shop seems like it has been in an accident,” said Mr. Saleem.

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