Mumbai youngsters on a crash course
With more than 20 lakh registered vehicles on Mumbai roads, the number of accidents has been steadily rising every year. In a three-part series, HT looks at how reluctance to adopt safety measures and follow traffic norms is making your commute dangerous.india Updated: Mar 12, 2013 02:09 IST
The need for speed and the love of living life in the fast lane is turning out to be a deadly combination for city’s youngsters.
According to traffic officials, most traffic offences in the city are carried out by motorists between 21 and 30 years of age. Nearly 7,000 people in the same age group were arrested for drink driving in 2012.
Rash driving as well as drunken and negligent drivers have made the city increasingly accident-prone, claim traffic officials.
In the past year, there have been more than 4,000 accidents, with at least 1,900 fatalities.
“Each day, about 300 to 400 new vehicles are added to Mumbai roads. When in a hurry, the drivers violate traffic norms by cutting lanes, jumping signals and driving rashly. This not only puts other commuters at risk, but also pedestrians,” said an official from the traffic police department.
According to statistics compiled by the Mumbai traffic police, a total of 2,04,230 offenders were caught in 2012 for jumping signals, 47,232 were fined for cutting lanes while 26,232 people were fined for not wearing the seat belt.
“People have to be patient. There are so many instances where a speeding motorist hits an on-duty traffic constable because he can’t control the vehicle. Whatever it is — the thrill, sheer rebelliousness or indifference — people have to follow traffic rules for their safety and that of others,” said Vivek Phansalkar, joint commissioner of police, traffic.
Despite carrying out nakabandis at various spots in the city, the police say the number of motorists caught driving after consuming alcohol remains high.
“Our recent survey shows that most of the offenders booked last year for drink driving are aged between 21 years and 30 years. Nearly 6, 940 of the 14,000 offenders fall in this age group,” said Phansalkar.
According to officials, it is becoming increasingly necessary for drivers to follow traffic norms as the vehicular density in the city is far greater when compared to other cities in the country.
“As of March 31, 2012, Mumbai has close to 20 lakh registered vehicles and the number increases exponentially every year. The available road length, however, remains the same. Congestion is the biggest problem and violation of traffic rules further aggravates the situation,” said Mote Patil, senior inspector, traffic prosecution branch.
Traffic experts said that people should commit to their own safety and that of others in order to ensure a decline in the number of road accidents and fatalities.
“I think that higher fines will not act as a deterrent. But if people are detained, they will not flout rules,” said Nitin Dossa, vice-president, Western India Automobile Association.
31% road fatalities involve bikers
Sunil Lot, 30, lost his life after a speeding car hit his bike from the rear at Goregaon (West) last week.
Lot sustained major injuries on his jaw and head after falling to the ground and died on the spot. He was not wearing a helmet.
According to a recent survey of the traffic police, 31% victims of fatal accidents last year were motorcyclists alone, and riding without helmets adds to their vulnerability on the roads.
“Our survey has shown that motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable road users, having contributed 82.8 % to the total number of traffic-related deaths last year. Of these, 31% were motorcyclists alone,” said Vivek Phansalkar, joint commissioner of police, traffic.
Traffic police officials said that most motorcyclists in the city were between 21 to 30 years of age and despite several measures, high number of accidents were reported in the city each year.
Till February 28 this year, more than 32,000 bikers were fined for riding without a helmet, while 2,17,247 were fined in 2012.
“Most of the accidents on JJ flyover involve young motorcyclists. This was the reason motorcyclists are prohibited from using the flyover. But you can still see several of them flouting the rule,” said Allka Shah, member of a road safety advisory board to the Mumbai police.
“Bikers have to be more responsible for their own safety,” Shah added.
The traffic police with the help of the local cops conduct drives in areas such as Kherwadi, Charkop, Marine Drive and the Eastern Express Highway to check on racing bikers.
The police have now started registering first information reports (FIR) against these bikers under section 279 of the Indian Penal Code for rash driving.
“A biker will not save more than a minute or two when he speeds or cuts lanes, but the cost that he may have to pay is massive. And those who race their bikes, I do not think that thrill is worth risking one’s life for,” Phansalkar said.
Driving home the message of safety
The traffic police have joined hands with 490 schools and colleges in the city to create awareness among youngsters about safe driving.
The department has also come up with a public interest advertisement on road safety that is currently being aired in several multiplexes in the city.
“Through association with schools, we have been able to reach out to 49,000 students. We have faith in our youth and are sure that if we guide them the right way, they will become responsible motorists,” said Vivek Phansalkar, joint commissioner of police, traffic.
Phansalkar said the habit of flouting traffic norms could be attributed to a lack of discipline and it is this behaviour that needs to be targeted for long-term results.
“Observing any kind of discipline is a normative, societal behaviour. Increasing fines or stricter punishments may not necessarily act as deterrents and will take a long time to attain absolute discipline. Hence we are targeting the youth,” said Phansalkar, adding that the students were being trained in various facets of road safety, including road signs, pedestrian safety, hazards of jaywalking, speeding, rash driving, among other things.
The traffic police are also gradually coming up with more youth-friendly concepts to drive home the safety message. One such initiative was the 1.35 minute-long advertisement that highlights the perils of dangerous driving.
“This advertisement is being aired in at least 50 multiplexes in the city since January. It shows how a mother spends an entire day worrying after her son leaves home without a helmet. The message is that people should ensure safety on roads for themselves and for their loved ones,” said Phansalkar.