Motor Vehicles Inspector M. Prakashan is no photography enthusiast. But on Friday, he gets out of his official vehicle and trains a small but powerful camera on passing motorists at a busy intersection near Mavoor Road.
A few two-wheeler riders without helmets try to dodge the camera, but the majority sail past without noticing the unusual sight of a khakhi-clad man taking photographs under the relative stealth of an overbridge.
A few clicks later, Mr. Prakashan climbs in and pulls out to the next stop.
In the past fortnight, the district wing of the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) has come up with a rather innovative and home-grown idea to catch errant drivers red-handed without the slightest physical intervention.
“Earlier, we used to frantically wave our hands at traffic violators to stop. Many would zip past us. We would run after them shouting at them to stop or even chase them for some distance, which is a risky business for the driver. Now, we do neither. We coolly see them coming from a distance. We sit inside our vehicles and click their photographs. No sweat,” Mr. Prakashan said.
The photographs are taken back to the Regional Transport Office, Kozhikode, and are blown up. High-resolution prints are taken of them and they are annexed as visual evidence along with the traffic violation report.
Regional Transport Officer Rajeev Puthalath said this move came after a decision taken in a high-level meeting headed by State Transport Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh to intensify road patrolling in Kozhikode and Kannur and increase the use of surveillance cameras.
As per the official statistics available from July 1 till date, the department has registered 1,400 cases of traffic violations and collected Rs.11 lakh in fines. Of this, 394 cases deal with motorists not wearing helmets; 113 deal with rash and negligent driving; and 134 deal with cars using tinted films beyond the permissible limit on their windows.
“As of now, the department has supplied us with only this camera. This was initially bought to record driving tests. However, we are free to use our own digital cameras for road patrolling. In the past two weeks, we have already snapped about 160 cases of petty traffic violations, including red-light jumping, on this camera alone,” Mr. Prakashan said.
But, he agrees that there are limits to what a single digital camera, however well-intentioned, can do to curb rash driving.
Under the motor vehicles law, petty offences like travelling without helmets and traffic light jumping only cost drivers a fine between Rs.100 and a maximum of Rs.1,000.