MVD powerless to stop vehicle stunts on social media

Vehicle stunts to get a few likes on social media platforms are gaining traction among youngsters and the MVD is ill-equipped to crack the whip on these violators

Updated - October 14, 2022 09:43 am IST

Published - October 13, 2022 09:56 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Image used for representational purpose only.

Image used for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

Vehicle stunts to get a few likes on social media platforms are gaining traction among young people and the Motor Vehicles department (MVD) is rather ill-equipped to crack the whip on these violators, who are setting a bad example.

It was not long ago that two youths died after their bikes collided while performing a stunt on the NH-66 bypass section near Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram.

Around a week before the incident, an enforcement squad of the MVD had zeroed in on the youths after their dangerous bike stunts attracted wide viewership on Instagram. It took around a week for officials to get their identity as all identification marks, including the high-security number plates, had been removed from the videos before posting them to dodge the agencies.

When the officials arrived at the residences of the bikers, they were greeted by the news of death of the bikers in a road accident, says Liju B.S., an additional motor vehicle inspector, Thiruvananthapuram.

In another incident, a private school student at Venjaramoodu in Thiruvananthapuram exhibited a model of a contract carriage, which earned notoriety after it caught fire when the bus crew burst crackers on its rooftop, the video of which was viral on social media, at the school science expo. The incident smacks of the growing influence such unruly social media reels showing daredevilry on the part of vehicle crew, mostly tourist buses, wields on young users of social media.

In another case, officials seized the vehicle of a youth after his dangerous Insta reels went viral. But the youth spent the whole night outside the MVD office refusing to go home as he was addicted to his bike. It is extremely dangerous when youngsters get addicted to such daring performances for mileage on social media, says Mr. Liju.

Curiously, a large number of ‘reel performers’ on social media are from middle-class or lower middle-class backgrounds, says another officer.

“I do not want to endanger others’ lives by performing stunts but it is a passion for me and I am not able to stop all of a sudden. Plus, our vehicles are more roadworthy than anyone else’s,” says Jishnu Unni, a 19-year-old bike stunt performer who was recently injured in an accident in Kollam.

Vehicle alterations are equally rampant. A full-fledged alteration with additional flashlights and high decibel sound system will cost a bus owner about ₹3 to 4 lakh. Initially, just about 10% of the buses were thus altered but when they became a hit among students for excursions, they began to dent the fortunes of the unaltered ones who followed suit. Tour bus operators get about 50% of their revenue from excursions, says Rijaz of Aluva, district working president, Contract Carriage Operators’ Association, Ernakulam.

When it comes to enforcement, the MVD is not fully geared to track down the violators who go overboard with their vehicles for social media traction. For instance, there are around eight enforcement squads in Thiruvananthapuram. One squad could register 20 to 25 cases of traffic violation on social media in a month, while more than 2,000 groups are actively posting on social media platforms.

Moreover, an officer takes about a week to track the identity of the violators as details are masked in the videos. In addition, many senior officials are not adequately tech-savvy and find it difficult to go after rule violations filmed for social media platforms, according to senior officers.

To top it all, fines imposed for violations fail to act as a deterrent. Recently, an erring biker was fined ₹35,000 for a repeated offence in Thiruvananthapuram, but the bike appeared on social media with another stunt just a day after it was released.

According to officials, national highways are a major attraction for many as videos shot against the backdrop of visually appealing quality roads get better traction on social media. Susan George, a government servant in Thiruvananthapuram, who drives to office and back daily, says unruly bikes zipping past her vehicle often upset her rhythm and peace of mind.

The MVD is exploring ways to carry out enforcement measures on social media by joining hands with the Police and Excise departments. A high-level meeting held recently decided to invoke stringent penal action against the offenders on social media as well, apart from making mandatory community servicing and driving training under the MVD to restore the cancelled driving licence, says P.S. Pramoj Sanker, Additional Transport Commissioner.

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