Can we ever modernise our traffic monitoring system?

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Politicians often promise a hill but deliver only a pinch! The special steps to reduce increasing number of road accidents announced by finance minister K.M.Mani in the budget he presented on Monday only confirms this popular perception.

Road users’ safety has become an issue of paramount importance because, between 2007 and 2011, the State witnessed a total number of 1,82,911 accidents which claimed 19,605 innocent lives!

For the same period, the grievously injured stood at 1,27,344 while 88,764 persons accounted for minor injuries (table-1). Most accidents occur due to drivers’ carelessness affirms a highly placed Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) sources.

They believe it’s time the State embraced radar surveillance system (RSS) replacing the conventional method physical interventional method. Mani in his budget promises, RSS now covering five districts would get extended across the State from April.

However, surprising, as it would appear his budget is silent when it comes to the allocation of funds required for extending the facility to the remaining districts in the State. This being so, MVD sources dismiss it as yet another tall promise.

The State has a total of 1.75 lakh kilometer stretch road including National and State Highways as against 3000 traffic personnel including 500 motor vehicle inspectors to monitor the traffic. It’s here RSS gains significance.

This is of particularly so when the State has witnessed exponential growth in its vehicle population. In 2002-03, it’d a total number of 25.50 lakh vehicle units which by 2010-11 swelled to a staggering 60.72 lakhs registering 245 per cent growth!

“So, the conventional method of physical intervention has become a humanly impossible task. But, we would need a minimum Rs 200 crore to bring the State roads under the RSS ambit,” MVD sources revealed.

According to them, implementation of RSS in the 7500-kilometer stretch roads in the National and State Highways would do the trick. “It’s not necessary that all our roads should be brought under RSS,” sources pointed out.

That’s because MVD studies have revealed that it’s the highways which account for the maximum traffic volume in comparison to the number of accidents occurring on them and the rural roads.

“Highway accidents are 7 to 8 times higher than the State average,” sources said. MVD now plans to extend RSS facility to Mannuthy from Aroor before taking up Kovalam-Kollam, Pamba-Vadasserikkara and Erumeli-Chalakkayam highways.

“We also want to take up Thodupuzha-Moovattupuzha-Angamaly stretch for radar surveillance soon. To speed up their implementation, besides the Central government assistance, the State should’ve also made some allocation,” sources said.

The Rs 200-crore investment required for RSS implementation is a very reasonable sum both from economic and humanitarian point of view, argue sources; especially when MVD had enriched government coffers by Rs 3843.01 crore between 2008 and 2012.

So, what does Mani’s budget contain for road users’ safety? Except for specific fund allocation, it talks about everything including setting up of Road Safety Authority (RSA), district-level Accident Review Committees (ARC) and introduction of a post-graduate course in road safety!

Thus it proves politicians often don’t wake up to harsh realities. But, one good aspect is that road users have already started taking adequate precautions. This is evident from the fact fines being collected by MVD for violation of traffic rules is on the decline.

If MVD revenue by way of fines stood at Rs 24.44 crore during 2008-09, it peaked to touch Rs 40.49 crore during 2010-11. However, for the year 2011-12, MVD had to be contented with an
all-time low of Rs 15.81 crore. (table-2)

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