MTC acts to prevent footboard travelling and road fatalities

Thanks to the measures it has taken, the number of fatal accidents in 2023-24 was 62 as against 73 in 2022-23. Also, the number of deaths was 62 as against 74 in 2022-23. It has fitted 468 old buses, which operate on high-density routes, with automatic doors

Updated - June 26, 2024 06:42 am IST

Published - June 25, 2024 11:28 pm IST

Boost to safety: The MTC has started buying buses with automatic doors to reduce footboard travelling. It has also fitted the old buses with automatic doors.

Boost to safety: The MTC has started buying buses with automatic doors to reduce footboard travelling. It has also fitted the old buses with automatic doors. | Photo Credit: R. RAGU

The deaths in a majority of accidents involving Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) are caused more by footboard travelling than collision with other vehicles. The footboard travelling, a result of overcrowding, has caused many deaths and loss of limbs over the years.

Activists have been demanding more safety measures. The Madras High Court had directed the Transport Department to devise a strategy to prevent accidents due to footboard travelling after school students standing on the footboard of an MTC bus were killed, having been hit by a reversing water tanker on Rajiv Gandhi Salai at Perungudi in 2012.

Then the MTC started buying buses with automatic doors, which were until then available only in air-conditioned buses. It also devised a strategy, along with the traffic police, for preventing footboard travelling of students by identifying ‘route thalais’, who were behind many students travelling on the footboard. However, automatic doors are available only in some of the new buses and not in the old buses.

Accidents come down

A senior official of the Transport Department said that after the MTC adopted safety measures, the number of accidents as well as fatalities decreased this year from last year. The total number of fatal accidents in 2023-24 was 62 as against 73 in 2022-23. Also, the number of fatalities was 62 as against 74 in 2022-23, a decrease of nearly 20%.

The MTC had taken a holistic view of road safety: good condition of buses, proper working crew, and adherence to road rules. To avoid travelling on the footboard, 468 old buses, which were operated on high-density routes, were fitted with automatic doors, officials said.

Safety guards

MTC Managing Director Alby John said that considering the accidents involving buses and two-wheelers and injuries to two-wheeler riders, an accessory, called under-run protection safety guards, was planned to be fitted on 1,612 buses. It was fitted on 692 buses, and the work was in progress on the remaining buses, he said.

The MTC has also initiated a project, ‘Reducing Accidents Involving Public Transit Buses in Chennai’, along with the IIT Madras. Under it, 200 drivers were trained through simulators to improve their driving skills to avoid accidents. To motivate drivers to avoid accidents and encourage safe driving, the MTC rewarded 335 drivers who completed 10 years without being involved in a single accident, presenting them with 100-gram silver medals.

Counselling, de-addiction

Given the need for preventing drunken driving, the MTC has installed breath analysers at all its depots and training centres. Only after the breathalyzer test will a driver be allowed to take the bus. “The system has helped in creating better awareness and safe operation of the buses,” Mr. Alby John said.

If drivers and conductors were caught operating a bus under the influence of alcohol, they were placed under suspension immediately and referred to the Alcohol Addiction Rehabilitation Centre at the Government Infectious Disease Hospital, Tondiarpet.

A senior official said safe driving required both physical and mental efforts and to help the drivers recover from any mental trauma and improve their health, the MTC conducted a full physical examination of 334 drivers found to be involved in more than 10 accidents.

The programme is being conducted with the help of specialists from the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. The 334 drivers, identified as those working under stress, are also receiving psychological counselling from the Government Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk.

Daily yoga session

The MTC has taken the government’s help to enable drivers and conductors to control stress through naturopathy and yoga. Drivers, conductors, and the technical staff arriving for duty early participate in a 10-minute yoga session at the Adyar depot. One of the main grievances of road-users and transport activists is the drivers’ scant regard for the road rules. Hence, the MTC, along with the traffic police, organises regular workshops for drivers and conductors on road safety.

In the event of accidents involving MTC buses, the safety wing of the MTC obtains the closed-circuit television footage from the accident spots, as also from the buses, to find out the cause. Previously, in accidents involving MTC buses, only the drivers were thought to be at fault. Without any departmental action, both the driver and the conductor are put through a week-long yoga session to help them overcome the trauma.

Ticket checkers and inspectors have been posted to ask the crew to stop at busy bus stations and warn the crew in case the doors are not closed.

‘Increase bus frequency’

K.P. Subramanian, former professor of Anna University and an expert in the transport sector, points out that there is a lot of improvement in the operation of the MTC buses. To prevent footboard travel, doors are scrupulously closed by the crew soon after the buses start. However, there are buses without automatic doors. Footboard travel is due to indiscipline as well as inadequacy of space. Therefore, the remedy lies in conducting checks and increasing the frequency of buses at peak hours.

He says that jumping signals, speeding, and having no concern for other road-users and regard for traffic rules are the other causes of accidents. Intensive motivational training and impartial and transparent enforcement of rules may help to improve the situation.

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