A welcome suggestion | Daily News

A welcome suggestion

The Traffic Police plays an important role by regulating traffic as well as probing violations of road rules by motorists and pedestrians. They have the power to issue traffic fines and/or produce traffic rule violators in court. This is a very important mechanism to deter motorists from committing repeat offences.

However, there are many complaints from motorists that traffic policemen demand bribes in cash or kind to send them off without writing a ticket or even to write a lesser offence that attracts a lower fine. This is, of course, a violation of the country’s bribery laws. In such a case, both parties are in the wrong – giving a bribe is also illegal and immoral.

Until now, there has been no proper mechanism for the public to complain against such errant police personnel. Traffic Police DIG Ajith Rohana has now requested the public not to hesitate to record and send audio or video clips taken from mobile phones on incidents involving activities of traffic police officers who seek bribes or other favours.

This is a step in the right direction. With almost everyone having a smartphone and many cars having front dashcams, video evidence can readily be obtained. To be fair, the Police too can record the conversation with the motorist. This way, an independent court or other forum can decide who is wrong and who is right. With the number of “bookable” traffic offences now nearing 35, disputes are bound to be common and video evidence will help resolve any impasse.

It is important that the Traffic DIG has cleared the air on the right of motorists to record their interactions with traffic police officers since there have been a few incidents where the Police had grabbed the cameras/phones of some motorists and motorcyclists. In the light of what the Traffic Chief says, this would be strictly illegal – the Police have no right to stop a recording by a member of the public. Furthermore, dashcams and action cams (worn on top of the helmet) can help the Police in the event of an accident – they can analyse the footage and see which party is responsible for an accident.

The authorities must also explore the possibility of providing Body Cameras at least for Traffic officers. This is already a common practice in many other countries. Then the Police will also be able to record what goes on during a traffic violation stop and produce such evidence in court. If both parties present audiovisual evidence, the court will be able to tell who is telling the truth. The widespread use of Police CCTV vans and fixed CCTV cameras makes motorists think twice before committing an offence and body cameras would increase this awareness further. It is also time that the Traffic Police force is updated with electronic breathalyzers, electronic narcotics use detectors, electronic tint meters and other modern equipment to nab errant motorists.

However, there is absolutely no need for the Police to hide behind trees and bushes to nab unsuspecting motorists. This a highly dangerous practice, because some motorists may not be able to stop their vehicles in time – they may actually hit the pouncing policeman. The Police should be out in the open where the motorists can easily see them – it is only then that fear will be instilled in a motorist who would otherwise try to ignore road rules. The Police must get one thing clear – their primary role is not collecting fines. It is educating the public and creating awareness on the importance of adhering to road rules. In fact, the public has little or no idea of the recently expanded list of traffic offences. The Police must make extensive use of the media to make motorists aware of these changes.

There are other concerns vis-à-vis the Traffic Police. They must leave the traffic lights alone during rush hours instead of turning them off and trying to control the flow of traffic manually. A single policeman cannot regulate a six-way junction manually with any degree of effectiveness. The usual result is a mile-long traffic jam in every direction. On the other hand, traffic lights have been programmed and timed to give all lanes a chance in the most efficient manner. On top of that, they never get tired, angry, sleepy, hungry or distracted.

‘VIP’ convoys are another worrying factor. Only the President and the Prime Minister need motorcades for reasons of security and efficiency. No other person, regardless of stature, needs a motorcade in an environment sans any discernible threat. One feels that these are just for “show” and for intimidating the very voters who made them “people’s representatives”. These VIP drivers have absolutely no regard for road rules, other motorists and of course, for traffic policemen. It is time that they are reined in for the safety of the public at large. And the Traffic Police must be fair to all. We have seen plenty of instances where traffic policemen salute VIPs who run red lights. This kind of servile behaviour has to stop if the Traffic Police is keen to enhance its reputation. 


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