Most cities in India now have a compulsory rule to wear seat belts if you are sitting in the front seats of any four wheeler. Many cities also have strict rules for two-wheeler riders to wear helmets. Failure to comply with the two rules above leads to heavy fines! Heavy – mark this word.
Most cities experience a sort of rebel against the traffic authorities when safety rules like those for the seat belt and the helmet are introduced. People are reluctant to wear them. It is like smoking cigarettes. People are reluctant to follow what is in their best interest. As much as the fact that smoking cigarettes is injurious to health is true, not wearing helmets is a big risk too! Everyday newspapers in cities such as Pune, carry news of people getting badly injured or losing life because of head injuries sustained during accidents. I am not very sure how well seat belts actually protect someone driving a car, not especially in India.
In my honest opinion, compulsory rules of wearing seat belts or helmets must be scrapped. Also, all the road-side Pollution Under Control (PUC) centres in India must shut shops.
Below are the traffic regulations reforms that I propose without having any authority over them. Reading those, I believe my opinions on compulsory rules would make a little more sense.
1) Increase fine amounts from meagre Rs 100 to a heavy Rs 1000
People would just not pay so much fine, isn’t it? Understandably, there is a risk of increased corruption if the fines are too high. But there is a way to implement. In the US, fines for over-speeding range from $100 to as much as $400 or may be even beyond. That is a big pinch! The traffic authorities should increase the fines for parking in no-parking zones, over-speeding, jumping traffic signals, etc. Let the consumer move court to settle disputes. Imposing heavy fines is the first step in reducing the crimes.
2) Increase the charges for parking vehicles in public places
Rs 4 for a period of 4 hours for 2 wheelers and Rs 10 for 4 hours for 4 wheelers is definitely not the solution India is looking upto! With the exponentially growing sales of two and four wheelers, there is lesser space to drive or park the vehicles on the roads. Increasing parking charges to much higher rates would force people to think more than twice before pulling their cars out of the garage just to get bread from the supermarket. This would also promote usage of public transport – provided it is fully functional and exhaustive.
3) Fine pedestrians for jay-walking
Very funny things happen here in Pune. The signal is green for your vehicle to go ahead, and pedestrians just walk across showing their hands to stop your vehicle. This is even when the pedestrian signal is red! In India, pedestrians behave like cattle, they feel free to cross the street at whatever points they want, sometimes they even walk diagonally! Jay-walking is irrespective of the location being a pedestrian signal, or a zebra crossing or the middle of the expressway.
If vehicles can be fined, pedestrians should be fined as well. In my opinion, if a pedestrian meets with an accident in the middle of the road, the vehicle driver’s fine should be reduced to half of what he would be fined in normal circumstances. Because here the pedestrian is at fault!
4) Fine vehicles for using high-beam headlights within city limits
City roads have heavy to very heavy traffic, and in India, urban traffic is a good mix or 2, 3 and 4 wheelers. Most urban roads are 2 lane and without dividers in place. It means that the lights from the vehicles moving in opposite direction hit your eyes! This causes momentary blindness and can be a very big reason for accidents. In Pune a very large number of citizens drive their cars and ride their bikes with the high-beam headlight activated. There is no reason to do that as the traffic barely moves at 25 km/hr. In cities like Pune, you do not need to look far with a high-beam, but you do need to look down at the pot holes and for that you must have the low-beam on! IMHO, vehicles with high-beam activated within city limits should be stopped by the traffic cops and heavily fined!
5) PUC certificates are humbug! Fine vehicles if you see smoke behind them!
Like most certificates, it is very easy to get fake Pollution-Under-Control or PUC certificate for your vehicle in India. It really does not matter if your vehicle is emitting within prescribed norms. All you need is Rs 30 (less than a US dollar). With the agriculture industry being called the backbone of Indian economy, diesel has been heavily subsidised, mainly for agricultural use. A fallout of this has been that almost all car manufacturers have a diesel variant on Indian roads. In my opinion, diesel pollutes more than petrol and is more susceptible to adulteration (not confirmed). Most trucks and tempos that carry goods of small and large kinds use diesel. Many of them, and also a lot of 3 wheeler tempos and auto rickshaws adulterate petrol/diesel by adding cheaper additives. Who cares about unleaded petrol? What is CNG?
Few cities in India like Mumbai, Delhi and I do not know which others (certainly not Pune) have most 3 wheelers running with CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). CNG not only generates lesser pollution, but also drastically reduces running costs. Mumbai and Delhi also plan to move all public transport by CNG instead or petrol or diesel.
Coming back to the point of emissions. I believe that if you see smoke coming out of a vehicle’s hose, it is surely polluting! Fine it! Almost always they have valid (fake) PUC certificates and are hence let free. The traffic authorities must equip all traffic policemen with pollution emission testing kits to test such vehicles. These vehicles should be very heavily penalised.
If you are emitting black soot, you are polluting! No?
6) Do not make seat belts or helmets compulsory
Let us assume for the moment, that seat belts provide safety to the passengers in a car as much as a helmet to a bike rider. I think it is a question of personal safety to wear seat belts or helmets and traffic cops should not stop them in the middle of the road to fine them.
That being said, is not all that I want to say. If, the rider meets with an accident, he should be fined twice of the normal penalty. If a bus knocks down a two wheeler, the bus driver’s penalty should be halved if the two wheeler rider is not wearing a helmet. It should be up to the insurance companies to stop the payment of insurance money in case safety precautions were not taken. If this is put in place, I am sure people will themselves responsibly start taking care of putting on helmets and seat belts. Is that very difficult?
So if we put these regulations in place, would Indian roads become better to drive on? Would people still abuse the traffic cops?
PS: As Geetika rightly put it in the comments, traffic cops must be given better pays and more incentives. Probably their salaries should in part be commission based on the number of defaulters they give tickets to. Also, there needs to be a strict regulatory authority on top of that. Defaulters should be able to move court easily and cases must be dealt with rapid settlements. It is a whole big issue and a whole big mess. But something is better than nothing… better than those second tier contracted traffic cops who stand at the beginning of BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) routes to let only buses through the BRT corridors!!