It is indeed a great disappointment that over 4,000 deaths occur in Kerala yearly due to road accidents. Around 20,000 people suffer permanent disability in a year.
These are the latest statistics reflected in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). We cannot deny that lethargy and lackadaisical manner of traffic enforcement are the primary causes of such unfortunate loss of valuable life in Kerala.
As an educated society, we are fully aware of the causes of these frequent mishaps. Rash and negligent driving under the influence of alcohol or psychotropic substances are inevitably the major causes of fatal road accidents.
Make offenders pay through their noses
A penalty of Rs 50,000, along with the cancellation of driving licence for six months, should be imposed on those causing fatal accidents and the penal provision should to be made mandatory.
Statistics have shown that two-wheeler riders, who throw themselves and their pillion riders into accidents by their rash and negligent driving, die mostly because they don't use helmets.
The pillion riders also need to wear helmets, otherwise the helmet mandate appears to be a mockery. In many districts in Kerala, helmet usage by two-wheeler riders, especially in rural areas, is not enforced strictly. Two-wheeler riders without helmets should invite a minimum fine of Rs 10,000 for the first offence and Rs 25,000 for the repeat offences.
Speaking on the cell phone while driving a car or riding a two-wheeler is another major cause of many fatal road accidents. Such traffic offenders should given a minimum fine of Rs 25,000. For all other forms of traffic offences, the minimum fine needs to be enhanced to Rs 10,000.
The Motor Vehicle Act 1988 and the Motor Vehicle Rules 1989 empower the state legislature to promulgate notifications for enhancement of punishments in serious traffic violations. Currently, the minimum penalty for traffic violations in Kerala is Rs 100 and maximum penalty is only Rs 5,000 as per Notification: G.O. (P) NO: 14/2010 dated March 2, 2010.
This penalty appears to be peanuts for traffic offenders, especially in a city like Kochi. This is why the private buses remain a locomotive horror story on Kochi roads.
Cancellation of cell phone, power connection
A computerised data base has to be maintained for serious traffic offenders and should linked to their respective Aadhaar card. This will facilitate the Road Safety Committees under the District Administrations in Kerala to track habitual traffic offenders. Traffic offenders often evade payment of fines or prosecution by providing fake addresses.
The vehicle Registration number of all vehicles registered in Kerala should be linked with to Aadhaar Card, cell phone, KSEB / KWA / LPG connections of the registered owner of the vehicles.
The Road Safety Committee should introduce a computerised system where non-payment of fine by the person who has committed a serious traffic offence gets his personal cell phone/ /KSEB /LPG /KWA connections automatically disabled. This method of tracking traffic violations and offenders is prevailing in many countries. Such stringent action will minimise traffic offences and reduce serious road accidents.
Let there be light
Road engineering also plays a significant role in preventing fatal road accidents. Officials of the National Highway Authority of India and officials of the PWD (Roads) in Kerala have got a vicarious liability in the prevention of fatal road accidents.
Poor visibility of roads within the Corporations and Municipalities due to insufficient street lights has been the major cause of fatal accidents in Kochi. In many parts within Kochi Corporation, the center road median is not visible during night and this is another cause of major accidents.
Speeding cars and two-wheelers often dash against the invisible center road median during night and slip on to the opposite side of the median and dash against oncoming vehicles.
Enforcing line traffic with luminous and fluorescent paints on the road is a universal practice. The central median on the road with fluorescent paints becomes visible during night driving.
Often, large potholes on highways are neglected willfully by the traffic implementation committee and the District Administration.
It is the responsibility of PWD and National Highway authorities to provide pothole-free line traffic on the highways, demarcating each lane and the centre median with fluorescent paints.
Failure to provide safe roads by erring and lethargic Govt officials has also to be made accountable.
(The writer is a former Superintendent of Police)