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Editorial

‘Trap shooting’ seems Delhi Traffic Police’s pet game’

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By EMN Updated: Feb 24, 2014 11:19 pm
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Arvind Padmanabhan

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ar from taking effective steps to bring discipline to the capital’s roads, the Delhi Traffic Police seems fixated with the game of tempting the city’s drivers to break rules, only to ambush them into paying the price for their misdemeanour. In the process, if the rule-abiders suffer, so be it! Here’s how:
It is commonplace to find the absence of traffic police personnel at some key crossings with signals. Many drivers in Delhi, used as they are to jumping lights – some very innocuous places – take a quick look to ensure the signal is not manned and just drive past.
But some inexperienced drivers, or those new to that area, realise later that there are, indeed, some cops hidden away some 50-75 meters away only to catch them in the act and book them for the offence.
This smacks of inconsiderate behaviour on several counts.First, we all know that when a cop is stationed at crossing, seldom do people jump the light when the signal is red for them. By stationing themselves, hidden, a little distance away, they encourage the habitual rule-breakers to get into their act.
In the process, if there is an accident, which can be the case and has happened, there is no doubt that the rule-breaker is at fault. But then will it not the cops be culpable as well? Are they not to be blamed for encouraging such a practice by rule-breakers?
Also, look at it from the point of view of the victim of the potential accident, as also those who have to subsequently endure a traffic jam because of the act of the original rule-breaker who was not stopped by the cops. Often, moreover, the fine is so low that it is not a deterrent to breaking rules. This is also a very tempting opportunity for errant cops to make some money on the sly – and let us not be in denial over such practices. There is also the issue of where the traffic signals are installed and at what times they operate. There are numerous crossroads where a red signal is just not required at certain times, and mere amber-coloured blinkers serve the purpose.
Even the normally-rule-abiding driver, at such signals, is tempted to jump them. If the cops feel the red light is, indeed, required for, say, pedestrians to cross, there is a simple solution employed even in less-developed and poor countries.
At these places, it will be appropriate to install a push-button system, in which the occasional pedestrian wanting to cross can simply press it, prompt the signal to turn red for the traffic and get a green signal to cross safely.
Also, in many countries, they also deploy what are called induction loops, which is an electromagnetic system to detect approaching vehicles at a signal and simple programme controls the system to turn red, amber or green as the situation warrants.
In this, when there is no vehicle from one direction, the patience of other drivers need not be tested as they wait for their red signal to turn green. Often, such red signals can be counter-productive and lead to fatal accidents. One is not even talking about practices such as signal timing, where intersections are mapped according to the traffic movement at various times to suggest what is the best possible duration for the signal to turn red, amber or green. The system is programmed accordingly.
Or for that matter the installation of sensory cameras at key points – not just at intersections with lights, but also on freeways with unmanned radar guns – that click the number plates of a rule-breaking vehicle to dispatch a ticket to the owner later.
In this light, let’s look at the main task of the traffic police.
The mission of the Delhi Traffic Police is: To achieve the highest standards of smooth and safe traffic flow. And the objective: The first is to prevent and reduce accidents and then comes effective enforcement of traffic regulations.
Seven more objectives follow and they include: Inculcating a sense of discipline among road users, educating the public on road safety, and developing a sense of responsiveness and sensitivity to the needs of the public. On all these counts, the “trap shooting” game which the traffic cops play is contrary to the stated motto. It would serve better if the Delhi Traffic Police takes a look, or a re-look, at its own mission and objectives, and follows them in letter and spirit.

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By EMN Updated: Feb 24, 2014 11:19:47 pm