Gurugram traffic police install speakers at junctions to raise awareness, send updates
Around 3.30pm on Tuesday, a blue BMW sedan stopped at a traffic signal with the vehicle covering the zebra crossing. Suddenly, a message blared out from a grey loudspeaker installed on the traffic light pole, “BMW peeche karlo (go back). Zebra crossing is for pedestrians”.
The driver slowly reversed the car till it was behind the zebra crossing, as four traffic policemen sitting inside a nearby police post, who announced the message throught a wireless microphone, watched on.
The loudspeaker at Sector 42-27 intersection is part of a trial run by the Gurugram Police to install loudspeakers at 50 junctions in the city to play recorded messages, urging people to not violate traffic and give live traffic updates.
From Monday, the police began trials on traffic intersections at Huda City Centre metro station and Sector 42-27.
“This is really good. I went ahead of the zebra crossing, but these announcements would help raise awareness,” Prankaj Kumar, 26, who was driving the BMW sedan, said.
As a white hatchback stopped ahead of where it should have, the speaker put up about 15 feet high on an iron pole, blared out, “White WagonR, challan milega (a challan will be issued).” In no time, the driver reversed the car and so did two others.
When a motorcyclist stopped at the junction, the policeman used the speaker to ask him where his helmet was. “Where is your helmet? Don’t wear helmets out of fear of police. Wear it for the love for your family,” he said.
As an auto rickshaw driver who was eager to cross the junction stopped the vehicle ahead of others, the policemen had a little humour in the message. “Where are you going auto? It seems you are in a rush,” the police officer said and he belched, which was also transmitted through the three speakers at the junction.
“Whoever did this (put up the speakers), it is a good idea. We can hear the messages directly here,” another auto rickshaw driver, who stopped at the intersection, said.
The constables’ voices also got shrill and angry if the motorists did not listen to them.
“We will install speakers at other junctions in the city within two to three weeks. They will also play recorded messages and enable policemen to make announcements through them,” said Hitesh Yadav, assistant commissioner of police (traffic).
Constable Kuldeep, who was managing the junction, was happy that he didn’t have to yell anymore. “People were giving us a thumbs up,” another policeman said.
But the experiment needs some improvement. The constable’s voice through the speaker was broken and inaudible when he walked around with microphone instead of sitting inside the police booth.
Also, a message of a traffic violation on one side of the intersection being played at speakers on two different sides, created confusion among commuters.
Sarika Panda Bhatt, head of integrated transport and road safety with World Resources Institute India, said the project is not going to reduce accidents and road fatalities.
“Everyone already knows that they should wear seat belt or they should not jump a red light. There should be strict implementation of the rules,” she said.
Bhatt said that recorded messages were played at traffic junctions in Bhopal, Gwalior and Lucknow, including traffic update from local FM in one case.
“It was not a success. The announcements also distracts drivers,” Bhatt said.
Navdeep Asija, traffic advisor to Punjab government, also agreed with the view. “It is a welcome move, but its effectiveness is not known. Many researches have concluded that it is a form of distraction,” he said. “Using a mobile phone while driving is banned as it acts as a distraction.”
“The announcements will increase people’s knowledge, but there is no proof that it will change their behaviour,” Asija said. “Everyone knows morning walk is good for their health, but how many go for a walk?” he asked.
Bhatt said the Gurugram Police should run a trial at one or two intersections for a few months. “They should then analyse the results and before going ahead with the project,” she said.
Bhatt termed better “enforcement” and “engineering” as the two solutions to reduce accidents and better road safety.
Asija suggested a graduated licensing process which is used by many developed countries, in which it would take up to three years to get a license against a month in India, as a solution to curb accidents and road fatalities.