Saturday, 27 January 2018

Essay on Road Safety || Bhavuk Pujara

It was one fine morning when they all were driving within lanes, maintaining the safe distance between them, not speeding, not jumping signals, in fact they were slowing down at the Yellow light so as to stop by Red, no one overtaking my car on highway, no one honking on busy city roads and those pedestrians crossing only at Zebra Crossing. Sounds like Utopia, doesn’t it? No, I wasn’t dreaming either. This was my first day to work in Seattle, USA and the day I noticed the mere existence of traffic rules. Aah! What a beautiful morning that was! Back in India I’d consider lanes as “designs” on roads so I can switch them often and kill time, Red light ahead on my road would only be considered a “Stop” sign if I’d see some cop in white around, Honking would be an “integral” part of my driving in a way that NO Honking = NO Fun, Overtaking would be to “show around” how cool I am, Speeding would help me with “Adrenaline rush”; and maintaining minimum safe distance between cars? Whoa! Was that even a thing? I didn’t know.

I’m 27 and driving since I’s 19. But why didn’t I know all this first hand? Did I never pay attention to traffic rules? Was I the only one oblivious? Answer is that I never took it all seriously, in fact there is a very famous saying about us Indians on global platform- “We Indians are always in a hurry but never on time”. How true, isn’t it? We Indians carry this “I don’t care, nothing will happen to me, I’m a good driver” attitude up our sleeve. Statistics say so too, according to sources- Delhi with a population of mere 20mn reported around 1.5mn cases of just 3 violations- Driving without helmet, Speeding and Driving without seatbelt. That’s 8% violating the traffic rules officiallyeach year. And let’s note that this figure doesn’t include unnoticed violators and those who negotiated with cops when caught and were never recorded. The figure will surge to around 30% if all is accounted for. And I don’t shy away from saying that I have zoomed past unnoticed and negotiated when caught numerous times myself, well who wants to pay that heavy sum right? We all are breaking rules, aren’t we? So why should just I pay? “Catch them alI first” I’d chant. We always have in the back of our minds the solution to escape a ticket. Well, that is the problem right there.

But we have been discussing this issue on big platforms, let’s discuss the solutions today: Suspending driving licenses? Tried that. Charging hefty sum for violation? Check. Imprisonment? Done. Confiscate driving license? That’s new. Any improvements yet? Marginal. Let’s face the root of this issue- Our attitude, I suggest we change that. They say there are 2 ways to change one’s habit: INCENTIVIZE and PENALIZE. And that’s my solution to this forum:

For record, we have a poor number of Traffic policemen to vehicles ratio in India, for instance in Aurangabad the ratio is 1:5000 and that to number of vehicles is 1:4000. Also, according to 6th Pay Commission, salary of a Constable falls under Pay Band 1 Police Constable Basic Pay with a median value of 2,50,000 INR p.a. including incentives.

  1. Incentivize:
  1. Hire more traffic policemen: Not permanently. Instead, introduce a Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme, like in Indian Army, where candidates are hired at lower ranks with an option to retire after 3-5 years and top 20% performers shall be “considered” for a better rank and permanent position later. We youth today look for respectable jobs, introducing one performance centric and contractual based employment is a shout out for many good applications. This also partly solves the unemployment problem of the youth.
  2. Introduce a new civil service vertical of “Traffic enforcers”: Pass on to them limited rights to enforce traffic law and order. Employ youth, under the same SSC scheme, again under shorter span of Service Commission, and on successful completion they shall be provided certificates of merit for consideration in similar or government jobs later.
Key point is to Instruct them to play honest (Incentivize** them) and be strict with traffic violators.
This solution will increase the visual presence of traffic enforcers on roads and induce sense of fear in probable violators.
** During their employment incentivize them, award them and recognize them based on: Total quality tickets made, quantity of tickets made, number of complaints against them, feedback from seniors etc.

But wait, where’d their salary come from? Am I suggesting another stream of cash outflow from our “well preserved” Federal & State treasury? We know that’s debatable and too much to ask for. Well, No, thanks to our Indians’ intrinsic habit of breaking the law, I have a better solution: Penalize.

  1. Penalize:
We Indians are brought up in a way to ignore traffic rules and in case caught we always know what to do, don’t we? Slip a green note in the pocket or call some body back home. My solution is to heavily penalize us vehicle owners on every small law we break. Even in this proposed well-designed law and order system with strong enforcement structure like suggested above, we’ll take at least 5 years to correct our habits. And if carried out honestly, this system will generate a new revenue stream, in form of tickets, that can be used straight to pay the traffic enforcers and constables employed on contract. And when we start getting used to this new system the number of tickets will start falling, say in 4-5 years, around the same time when SSC employees start retiring, thus rectifying the cost and revenue structure.

While writing I came across this news that a TL cricketer died while racing on a highway with his friend. This is a state of urgency and it’s not law but our habits we need to chage, this solution addresses just that.

BY- Bhavuk Pujara

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