Over-speeding is a perennial problem on the city's roads. It is a contributing factor in 60 per cent of all road traffic accidents. With radar guns proving ineffective in curbing the menace, the traffic police have procured the next generation of speed detecting gizmos.

Sixteen portable laser speed guns, purchased with World Bank funding, are being deployed at various locations for the past one month. The device can detect the speed of an oncoming vehicle, display it to the offender along with a snapshot of the violation and also generate a print-out.

Over 1,900 cases have been booked in one month and fine amounts of over Rs.6 lakh have been collected.

First step

M. Ravi, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), says that this is the first step in a gradual move towards an evidence-based enforcement system. “Before, motorists used to say that the police book cases just to harass them. But now, nobody can refute the evidence. The device can work during the day as well as night and is largely error-free.”

On an average, 2,250 cases of over-speeding are registered in the city every month. Edison Santhakumar, a traffic inspector, Triplicane, says that registering speed limit violation cases were based on an “approximation”. “Just a month after the Laser guns were introduced, arguments with motorists have come down. It has also changed driver behaviour on certain junctions. They slow down when they see the device,” he adds.

Speed limit unfeasible?

However, Mr. Santhakumar says that the 40 kmph speed limit might be unfeasible all over the city. “May be it can be reconsidered at least on highways inside the city. Motorists find the limit unreasonable. Behavioural change is the larger objective and may be accident-prone zones where specific speed limits will apply need to be evolved,” he says.

J. Hufeza, a motorist who paid a fine of Rs.300 for over-speeding on Tuesday, said “Obviously, the fine is fair. It is a rule. But speed limit signs must be more prominent instead of being hidden somewhere. Since motorists look ahead mostly, gantries displaying speed norms need to be erected before violations are booked.”

Systemic improvement

Stressing that technology cannot provide all the solutions without systemic improvement, K. Giridhar, professor at IIT-Madras, whose team set up a speed monitoring system within the campus, says “For starters, all violations need to be saved to a centralised server. This way, the policeman cannot let anyone off. If each violation has its corresponding electronic signature, it will make a big difference.”

He adds that vehicle ownership needs to be tied to the driving licence. “In case of a traffic offence, police must be able to trace it back to an address that is valid. If the offender does not pay the fine at a centralised fine collection centre within 45 days, his insurance must be notified.”

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