The red light at a traffic signal is the most critical component of any road network. It is the simplest instruction and probably among the first few things taught to anyone about road rules.
Yet, it has become the most compromised rule. Even with several intersections providing countdowns, motorists often proceed before the signal turns green or well after it has turned red.
C.P. Ramaswamy Road, which extends from the TTK Road flyover up to the canal bridge, has a series of intersections with traffic signals. But these well-planned signals are ignored most of the time. Motorists rarely heed the red light, and often amble across the intersection at will. The peculiarity of this road is one of the reasons for this. Although a thoroughfare, C.P. Ramaswamy Road has quieter and less busy roads cutting across it at every intersection. This means traffic flow along the main road has been given higher priority and the signals are timed appropriately. However, this sometimes results in underutilised green time. People heading straight down the main road sometimes end up having to wait for little or no traffic along the crossroads. Inevitably, in their frustration and haste, they jump the signal.
This is, in fact, more dangerous than jumping a red signal at a busy intersection (not that either can be condoned). The lack of traffic along the crossroads is the biggest problem for such arterial roads. The few vehicles traversing the quieter roads often accelerate to make sure they cross the intersection within the little time allocated for them. One can imagine how violating a red signal and getting in the way of those vehicles can lead to accidents, which occur with alarming frequency.
It is no surprise that there is a penalty for jumping red signals levied under the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA). What is needed though is to make it steep (as opposed to Rs. 100 for the first offence and Rs. 300 for subsequent offences) and more importantly, strict enforcement.
However, there is only so much any governing body can do. While one solution could be to improve signal timings and deploy traffic police to manage the traffic ad hoc, the better and obvious solution is to simply follow road rules. The inability to wait for our turn has become an omnipresent problem; from the security check at airports to a simple queue at the supermarket, we try to jump ahead of others.
But when it comes to vehicular traffic, the consequences can be severe. Let us not wait for a devastating accident or a hefty fine to shake us out of our indifference.