Know more about the city's transportation system in the weekly column 'Roads and Rails'.
Just how many road users in the city have a licence?
According to Transport Department figures, 2,03,627 vehicles were registered in Chennai city in 2009-2010, but only 1,30,433 driving licences were issued during the same period. That is a difference of close to 73,000.
Ideally the average ratio of vehicles to drivers is 1:1.5, said a senior Transport Department official. For every 10 vehicles that get registered, there must be 15 licence holders — since one vehicle is generally used by many people, both in businesses and within families, he added.
According to him, the growing trend of individuals owning several vehicles can account for the anomaly partly. However, statistics from the Road Accident Data Management System have started showing accidents caused by drivers without a valid licence.
A.Veeraraghavan, Transportation Engineering Professor at IIT-Madras, said many of the vehicles are also not insured.
He pointed out that, “while the Transport Department is the licensing authority, the traffic police do the enforcement. Unless there is greater coordination between the two agencies and some kind of biometric features are incorporated through smart card type licences, it will be difficult to monitor licence holding,” he said.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M. Ravi said that while accidents caused by drivers without a licence were minimal, “there could certainly be people driving a vehicle without a valid licence. Unless an offence is committed, it would be very difficult to identify them.”
A detailed look at licence holding is required, he said. There are no systems in place to track suspended or cancelled licences.
“The licence has to become an ID card that cannot be tampered with. We are currently looking at deploying Blackberry devices that can be used to access databases containing history of offences and other details by just feeding the licence number. Such systems are already available in Bangalore and Hyderabad,” he added.
M.K. Subramanian, secretary of the Automobile Association of South India, said that while there might be drivers on the road without a proper licence, there are “many other loose ends.”
It takes at least 10 minutes to test a driver and a Regional Transport Office cannot issue more than 30 to 40 licences a day, he said. Since there a very largenumber of applicants, licensing has become an automatic process and people who do not know how to drive are on the road, he added.