Saturday, 28 January 2017

True lies of police statistics: Traffic violations dipped

HYDERABAD: Statistics can be deceptive. While Hyderabadis zip past on streets by violating rules, traffic police have churned out figures to state there has been a 50% dip in cases of triple riding, signal jumping and cell phone driving in 2016 compared to last year.

While one might believe statistics are an outcome of better enforcement and awareness, an independent inquiry proves the opposite.

In 2016, especially after August, a combination of factors like heavy rains and demonetisation crippled traffic police.

When rains damaged city roads between August and October, traffic cops were redeployed to help Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation officials with road repair. Enforcement of rules took a back seat.

The next big slowdown came in wake of demonetisation. No major drive was taken up against violations between November 8 and December 31, except for a few glaring cases being booked.The drop in three categories was both in terms of those being booking on the spot and through e-surveillance.Between 2015 and 2016, the dip in cases of triple riding was about 56.9%, 68.3% for signal jumping and a massive 71.7% for driving while on the phone.

Speaking to TOI, deputy commissioner of police (traffic) A V Ranganath admitted to a slowdown in enforcement for almost five months last year. Heavy rains from August required better regulation of roads and this was the focus of traffic cops, he said. After demonetisation, "people were busy depositing old notes in banks. There was an acute shortage of lower denomination currency too because of which cops were deployed to ensure transactions happened without unrest. We will now intensify the drive against traffic rule violators," he said.

Pointing out another possibility for the drop in cases in just these three categories, road safety experts alleged traffic police focused more on enforcing the helmet rule in 2016 because of which not many cases were booked for other traffic violations. Admitting to the danger of lack of enforcement, police admitted most accidents occur due to signal jumping, which often turn fatal. Yet they were unable to give statistics for the number of deaths in this category, or for the other two, which they said were equally dangerous. Dr K Prashant, consultant psychologist, Yashoda Hospital, said it was important to send a strong message to erring drivers.

"It is essential from enforcement point of view to send a clear message to motorists that no one can escape if they violate rules," he said, adding that the severity of punishment and penalty should be enough to be a deterrent.

Social activist T S Gupta said police officers at the highest level must take strin gent action against cops who themselves violate traffic rules by speaking on the cell phone while driving or while standing at junctions instead of regulating traffic.

Indian Road Safety Federation chief functionary Vinod Kumar Kanumala said intensifying the drive against signal jumping, triple riding and cell phone driving would not be enough. A continuous education programme in schools and colleges is needed to change the mindset of people, he said.