Motorists in Kerala have been responding angrily ever since the new Motor Vehicles Act came into force on September 1, which saw manifold increase in penalties for traffic offences. Their reaction ranged from 'we will drive roughly in these rough roads' to 'give us good roads first'.
According to motor vehicles department, over-speeding, helmet-less and seatbelt-less driving topped the offence charts since September 1, followed by drunk driving and mobile phones usage.
Some traffic offenders reacted sarcastically when the police imposed fine. “Rules are applicable for those who drive on roads, and not for those who ride through puddles and pools,” a biker told a police official.
In Kochi, the busiest metro in the state, traffic violators were seen arguing with the motor vehicles department officials with many of them insisting that they would pay the penalty in the court.
Station House Officer at Ernakulam West Traffic Police Station Dileesh Kumar said friendly ties between police and citizens have weakened since September 1. “The hike in fine has irked motorists and they are entering into spats with the cops,” he said.
Top officials said they, in fact, had gone slow in the first two days. “We did not implement the law on September 1 and 2. Instead, we focussed on spreading awareness. We also observed the motorists' responses,” Ernakulam Regional Transport Officer S Ananthakrishnan said.
Regional Transport Officer Ananthakrishnan said traffic police will enforce the new law irrespective of the responses on the roads. “Our task is to enforce the new law. We are not bothered about the public response,” he said. “But policemen would not unnecessarily harass motorists,” he assured.
Lack of adequate equipment is hampering traffic officials from enforcing the law.
The law states that officials should click photographs of the offenders' vehicles. Most of the traffic police stations do not have enough number of digital cameras. So cops make use of their personal mobile phones to click photographs.
A traffic official in Ernakulam East described the difficulties. “Vehicles would pass by the time he gets his mobile camera ready. If I manage to click, the photo would be too low in quality to identify the registration number. Surveillance cameras fixed along the highways have been damaged following heavy rains,” he said.
Officers at the Ernakulam South traffic police station said staff shortage would affect issuance of summons if the penalty is forwarded to the court. “Our work will be doubled if erring motorists demand to forward the case to the court. We will have to submit a report, follow up the summons, make a couple of trips up and down the court. So we would rather advise them not to over-speed in future,” said the cops.