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Updated: January 31, 2012 03:32 IST

Tracking repeat road offenders with digital footprints

Ajai Sreevatsan
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A few days after revellers took over the city's roads in the name of New Year celebrations, a traffic policeman had a peculiar story to share. When he stopped a trio on a motorcycle in the early hours of January 1, the person riding the bike showed him receipts of five previous fine payments. They paid another 50 bucks and continued to drive in a zigzag fashion. “They were all young, educated and had good jobs. What do you do with such people?” he asked.

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On Monday, the Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP) took the first in a series of proposed steps that aim to tackle bad road behaviour and unsafe driving. While the increase in ‘spot fine' rates has received wide attention, what is more significant is that repeat offenders would henceforth be targeted more stringently.

For certain offences, the fine could be three to four times more. Since the 200-odd e-challan devices deployed by CCTP would have to stay connected to an online database all through the day in order to identify repeat offenders, the discretionary powers of police personnel would be greatly reduced. From now, all offences would have a digital footprint and they can be tracked.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sanjay Arora said that it would take a few months for the move to start showing results. “Fine collection would definitely increase manifold.”

Increasing the penalty for bad road behaviour does have its benefits. Hyderabad did it in August last year and the number of road accidents dropped by 30-40 per cent in the last quarter of 2011.

Hyderabad Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) C.V. Anand said that traffic offences and road accidents are taken far too lightly in most Indian cities.

“Car owners park their vehicles obstructing traffic and get away with a mere Rs.100 fine. The amount is almost equal to a parking fee. In countries such as America, the fine amount for a single violation in dollar terms is as high as Rs.10,000,” he said.

But levying a fine is just one of the solutions, say experts. Large-scale changes are also needed in the mandate and method of policing, they say.

M.K. Subramanian of the Automobile Association of Southern India said that policing needs to be enlightened, not just enforcement-driven.

“The police must understand that the purpose of a fine is not to increase the revenue of the government. They keep complaining about the low fines, but the best deterrence for over-speeding is to make the motorist wait on the spot for 30 minutes. The police also have the power to make a helmetless two-wheeler rider buy one on the spot.”

Motorists such as Abdul Rahim single out the Rs.50 fine for jumping signals to make their point. “Half the traffic lights are not working anyway. When all the signals are blank, how can they implement the rule? What we need more than anything is a way to evaluate the performance of the traffic police. Just to show higher fine collection each year, pointless offences are booked, which may not at all have any impact on general road behaviour,” Mr. Rahim said.

In case a traffic signal remains dysfunctional for more than two months, the police jurisdiction under which it comes under must be penalised, he added.

IIT-Madras professor K. Giridhar, whose team set up a speed monitoring system inside campus, said the next logical step is for the traffic police to link repeat offences with the insurance premium. “If you own a fancy car, the premium may cost up to Rs.15,000-18,000. If bad driving is going to make them pay a higher premium, then it starts hurting.”

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I remember an incident that happened to me. We do need to appreciate the work done by Traffic Police.I was a student. Unknowingly I parked my vehicle at "No Parking" zone which was active only during peak hours. I forgot to take the vehicle before that time and Cops caught me. I pleaded for forgiveness as I am a student and I won't do it later.The Sargent said this "You being educated and you do such an offense then what's the point in getting educated. Pay the fine and Learn from your mistake." This made a very big impression on me that society expects something out of me where I need to set examples as responsible citizen. And again the idea is not to set examples but to be responsible. This changes the way you think entirely. So now question to other readers and authors. What have you done or doing to be responsible? is it OK to Violate traffic rule for some personal reason or to abide by it for the sake of society no matter what? do you prefer Chaos or order?

from:  senthil
Posted on: Feb 1, 2012 at 02:24 IST

As much as I am for stringent traffic rules and higher fines to an extent, I'd suggest that there be a track of how much money the cops pocket for every offence.
They must also be monitored for demanding the correct amount for the voilation committed, and must, at any cost, provide a chalan for the same.

from:  Sarun
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 23:29 IST

Please do not compare USA with the fines in terms of multifold. It is
easy to say that Rs 10,000 but one should note that in USA sufficient
infrastructure is in place whereas in chennai City Traffic police has
to look in to ways of improving the infrastructure facilities (like
creating additional parking space, adding dedicated lanes etc) before
even think of hiking the fine limit and other disciplinary measures

from:  VIJAYAN
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 19:12 IST

As I have lived in Europe and Australia, I would like to tell about the system adopted to detect traffic offences. Apart from the speed cameras and red light cameras, police sets up mobile cameras installed in their private cars. These cars can be just like any other car and are parked on the sides of main roads or in the service bay of highways. The cameras will have a recording between 2 hours to 36 hours and capture the traffic offences caused by vehicles. The fines are sent to the offenders directly to their addresses with a time frame, failing which the offenders will have to pay further higher fines along with the court expenses. These fines can be between 15,000 to 25,000 rupees.
Repeating traffic offences done by the drivers are either suspended of their licnce between 3 months to 3 years time. These rules should be brought to Chennai City Traffic Police. Having ridiculous and outdated traffic rules are a blessing to the offenders and a shame to the system itself.

from:  Syed Kabeer Ahmed
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 17:03 IST

Traffic discipline in Chennai is very pathetic. We dont have traffic sense. It should not be one time initiative by police. It should be an on-going monitoring by the police irrespective of any govt in power.

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 15:45 IST

Increasing of the penalty charges would make more bribe collections
to the policemen. Instead there should be strong actions against them
instead of collecting penalties. If the government really want to reduce
the accidents because of not following rules then it should appoint more
policemen to monitor the roads at all the times. Everybody is money
minded so they stimulate the civilians to do the mistakes and collect
the money. This mentality should be changed.

from:  Sridhar
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 15:14 IST

Traffic violations must be dealt with a serious tone. One initiative worth mentioning is the presence of speed detectors on the OMR (between Kumaran Nagar and Asiana Hotel). I have regularly seen traffic cops monitoring the vehicles. On the flipside, regular users can start anticipating where to find the cops and will reduce speed accordingly. Measures must be taken that the road users are within speed limits consistently. I suggest that the cops take up new and random positions to monitor everyday. Similar steps can be taken on other roads which favour reckless driving viz. ECR, Maduravayal bypass etc.

from:  Vignesh Nemana
Posted on: Jan 31, 2012 at 12:33 IST
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