Every time a vulnerable road-user becomes a victim of an accident, there is widespread outrage. But as reflected by official statistics, such outrage does not seem to lead to significant change. While the rate of fatal accidents in the State increased by seven per cent from 2008 to 2009, there was a 57 per cent drop in the number of cases in which the driving licence was impounded for causing “death due to negligence”.
The gap between the number of fatal accidents and the number of cases which lead to suspension or cancellation of licence is also wide. Insisting that every accident has to be professionally investigated to identify the cause, A. Veeraraghavan, Professor, Division of Transportation Engineering, IIT-Madras, said “The driver may not always be at fault. But due to the lack of expertise in investigation, it is impossible to conclusively prove who is at fault in a court of law.”
According to him, an investigating committee comprising officials from the Transport, Highways and Police departments must look into every accident. None of the government departments, he added, even has an accident investigation manual which lists out guidelines and procedures.
Of the 560 fatal accidents in Chennai in 2009, which is one of the most accident-prone districts, “a few cases have been recommended for suspension,” said M.Ravi, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic). No one's licence was cancelled.
A senior State Traffic Police official said that enforcement was impossible as suspension or cancellation did not seem to prevent a person from driving a vehicle again. “As there is no centralised database of licence-holders, a person can easily apply for a new licence from another RTO or just use a duplicate copy of his cancelled licence. Some kind of biometric features have to be incorporated to improve spot enforcement,” he added.