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Thursday, January 3

New Year...Old Hopes...

It's a good start to the new year for the motorists of the state. The reason? Achumama has declared that his Govt. is going to make the traffic rules more stringent. How? Increase the fine for traffic violations by over 500%...source

I recollect the old super hit drama related to the helmet issue. How our public fought against a primary road safety principle, leading to its failure. Similarly rules about safety belts, yellow line crossing and parking suffered at the hands of the obstinate citizens & hapless administration.

Keralites need to take a leaf out of the way traffic laws are imposed in the Western world. Take for instance, in the Republic of Ireland, the stringent rules have made driving extremely easy and safe even in the busy, congested streets of its metropolitan cities. The Penalty Points System of the Irish Road Safety Act has ensured that Irish motorways, highways and city streets are among the safest in the world. For violators of road rules a hefty fine is imposed in addition to deduction of penalty points from the licence. Over speeding, crossing the continuous white/yellow line, not following lane discipline, driving in bus lane etc fetch heavy fines and penalty points. Once you reach 12 points, you are banned from driving for full 3 years. It doesn't take long to touch 12 points. A KSRTC driver could be banned here in no time..If he drives without seat belt(4 points) without indicating his turns(4 points) and park away from the bus bay(5 points)... (as he does in Kerala) he will lose his licence, pay a month's salary as fine and worse, can cool his heels in the prison if the court labels him as an 'irresponsible & dangerous' driver. It is even mandatory to help a fellow citizen in an accident scene, failure to abide by it is a serious offense. The authorities take considerable efforts to create awareness among people about the essentials of good road sense. The above banner is exhibited very frequently on Ireland roads, detailing the fine and penalty points. The result is all for you to see!

Does it take a fortune to implement similar rules in our country? The statistics about the road traffic accidents & fatalities are just appaling. In Kerala the situation is much worse. At least a dozen people lose thier lives on our roads each day. We hold 3% of the total vehicle polulation in India but account for >10% of the total fatal accidents! Diabolical figures oblige drastic measures...

Our roads need some very emergency treatment, that's the primary requisite for any action to succeed. We are not demanding Hema Malini's cheeks but a surface better than the lunar landscape we have now. The highways are set for development under NHDP, the MC Road is set to become drivable again, flyovers are coming up at major junctions on our highways and various projects are underway to improve the roads in our cities. Proper road markings and signage are also requisites for safe driving. All fine, but with the prevailing driving culture we wont be bringing the sickening numbers down, for sure.

The Govt must exhibit the determination to implement existing laws, including enforcing the use of helmets & seat belts, check over speeding, inspection and certification of vehicles. The Motor Vehicle License Tests must become more scientific and a system to evaluate the licence holder's performance(like the Ireland Points system) must come into practice. The public must get the feeling that you cant conduct on roads as if you are in your grand-dad's backyard. The importance of following traffic laws, respecting signage & fellow drivers and adoption of good civic sense must be encultured from school age. Shortly, it encompasses a change in the way we look at our roads.

It doesn't need crores, does it?

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