No question of a compromise

AS ROAD users, we have endless complaints. Many factors are indeed beyond our control.

The poor visibility of traffic lights; potholes or invisible speed-breakers on roads which can pitchfork a two-wheeler like a bundle of hay; the bias of policemen who tend to penalise two-wheelers but ignore sumo wrestlers, with Periyar's profile on the bonnet flag, even if they squeeze past the traffic to jump the red light (as at the Kathipara junction recently).

It was with justified indignation that G. Seran, a retired Army captain, said, "Why should the cops nab only two-wheeler riders? Why not the four-wheeler drivers who break the law?" The query was legitimate because the reality on the roads seems to prove the veracity of this observation.

On an average, traffic policemen flag down errant two-wheeler riders with an impressive alacrity than they do delinquent cars.

Recent observation at the Chetpet overbridge-E.V.R. Salai signal showed how the traffic policemen do their job. It is easier to stop a two-wheeler rider because the constable jumps right in front of the vehicle, forcing the rider to slam on the brakes. There aren't many traffic policemen who can jump in front of a car that way.

The probability of a daring policeman being hit hard, if not fatally run over, by a car speeding to jump the signal is much higher than by a two-wheeler rider.

There may be other reasons for avoiding such daring acts. Traffic constables are human and tend to avoid unpleasant, demoralising experience.

The traffic head constable at the Chetpet overbridge-E.V.R. Salai junction stopped a car turning into Chetpet Bridge from E.V.R. Salai after jumping the red light.

The driver stepped out sheepishly and showed his licence (a laminated photocopy of the original. Is it permitted under the Motor Vehicles Act?) As the Reserve Sub-Inspector began entering the details on a form (in triplicate), the owner of the car stepped out. "I am a doctor," she said and added, "I've to be present at the DMS by 5.00 p.m., so please excuse him. I asked him to be careful but he was hurrying. I apologise on his behalf."

The RSI was absolutely right when he said, "Madam, you are lucky nothing happened, but something could. Why don't you make sure that your driver is more careful?" He chastised the driver but allowed him to go. He turned to me and asked, "Did I do wrong?" His response was human.

Though law is blind, the agents of implementation are not. But can the policeman allow every lawbreaker a respite from the penalty? I am sure, you will scream, "Certainly not!"

Let us consider auto rickshaw drivers. They protest when police pounce on them once a while, but can the auto drivers be considered saintly modest?

They routinely violate the one-way on Flowers Road; they park at the corner of the overbridge opposite the Central Station virtually under the nose of traffic policemen and block the traffic heading for the bridge; they plough into General Patters Road the wrong way; they take a U-turn into or while getting off a flyover; they take U-turns without announcing their intention; they nose into rushing traffic, which is forced to screech to a halt so that the auto can move majestically slowly. They are confident that none would ever dare to hit them.

If there is an altercation, other auto drivers come to their rescue to prove how right the auto driver was even though his licence should be impounded for the violations he commits. Even though there are constables almost everywhere during the day, I've never seen an auto driver being penalised for violations.

We are all in a tearing hurry. Time seems to matter only when we are behind the steering wheels or are riding bikes. Where do we draw the line?

Must it be a compromise between our urge to reach our destination quickly and the need to obey traffic rules? You will agree that there is no question of a compromise. Traffic rules have to be obeyed. Period.

And if you don't, the traffic police will be justified in penalising you for your mindless driving — no matter who you are. So, clever violators, beware!


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