Stricter Traffic Rules: The Real Reason

There was a news item last month - traffic violations in Bangalore will become dearer; not only in terms of the fine applicable, but also in the sense that repeat violators stand to lose their driving licenses. It appears to be a very good move .. on the face of it.

But just dig a bit deeper; and suddenly it all becomes very clear. It is just a very smart way for the traffic police to make more money; and demand more bribes. The target – those people who insist on paying the fine and getting the receipt rather than paying a bribe.

Given a choice between paying a bribe and getting your “violation” tracked, thereby risking losing your license; what would you prefer? I think I'd rather pay the bribe – principles take a back seat. Especially because of the fact that it is virtually impossible to drive in Bangalore without breaking some rule or the other – albeit unwittingly. For,

  • Many of the signals are faulty. Some signals stay permanently red for most of the days; and suddenly start functioning properly only when there is a cop around.

  • With bullies behind you honking and shouting and abusing you when you wait at a red signal, I think the sensible option is to face the police rather than face the bullies!

  • Signals in Bangalore do not follow a standard convention (especially the “blinking green arrow”, free left turns; “free straight” all are very irregular)

  • Huge number of signals are obscured by signboards, trees, and other such.

  • Most importantly, sometimes you are concentrating on the vehicles around you rather than craning your neck to see where the signal light is. Or, you are following a bus and the signal is simply not visible.

Bottom line – since it is very difficult to perfectly follow the rules while driving in Bangalore; and since I would not risk losing my license; I think I will need to compromise on the “no-bribe” principle if this proposal is implemented by the transport department.

On a closing note, how I wish the traffic police and transport department tried to target the deliberate violators; rather than the unfortunate ones who break the rules by mistake!

8 comments to Stricter Traffic Rules: The Real Reason

  • What you're saying makes sense. Though there are some traffic departments that are experimenting to work around this.

    For example, in Gurgaon, traffic cops get 30% of the challan amount. So, if they're challaning you for a 1000/- bucks, they get 300 back. Unless they're super greedy, they tend to challan you rather than taking bribes. I wonder if that's a decent solution...

  • Kiran,
    I can understand what you are saying, but if you are for making rules-regulations work, improving road sense for one and all, eradicating corruption, then I think you must abide by the rules no matter who honks from behind. I generally stop at signals and give way for those who want to still go ahead. But looking at me, poeple stops and then more people stops and it goes on, and I feel very very happy at that time thinking "it works".
    If you fall in the category of people who want to make a difference not only to own life only but other's too, who want to build the society for better living, who want to do something for country, then the very first thing to be done is to make sure that we shouldn't break the rules not even by mistake, we shouldn't tempt to follow the short-cut or some other similar stuff.

  • @Sumit: Yes - its true that some departments are trying to bring in some innovative measures. But I still don't think they are good enough. In the Gurgaon example, what is stopping the cops from challaning more people (often unfairly) in order to get more "commission"? Sure - no bribery has taken place - but its still corruption and harassment all the same.

    By the way, fine amounts are far less here in Bangalore - 100-300 for most of the violations!

    @Deepak: Totally agree with your ideology here. It is our duty to initiate the change. But, I have found that often times there are practical hurdles.

    For example - if it is just about someone honking behind you - then its easy to ignore them. But NOT when you are driving at 10:30 pm; roads are empty and the drunk cab driver behind you is honking angrily. Similarly, its not easy when a private bus fellow is shouting/abusing you from behind. In such cases, sensible thing to do is break the signal; but carefully making sure there is no traffic on the intersecting road. Also, I find it easier to let vehicles pass when I am on my two-wheeler. When in the car - its a completely different ballgame altogether!

    I also completely agree with the "no-shortcut" principle. But hey - in order to follow a rule; you must be aware that the rule applies right? For example; if you are following a huge bus and simply fail to spot a signal - what then?

    Or, consider this:
    1) At some signals in Bangalore; a "straight blinking Green Arrow" means that "right now, you cannot take a right at this signal; but you can go straight".
    2) At some other signals; the same blinking is used as a warning that the signal is about to go Red (i.e, they use this blinking instead of amber light).

    Now, if you are used to convention 1; and you see a blinking arrow, you will probably stick to your current speed under the assumption that its a free run. Suddenly, out of the blue the signal turns Red. Who is to blame for this rule break? certainly not You - right?

    Point I am trying to make is - we should stick to our principle of no rule breaks, no bribes to the extent possible; but if it comes to a stage where your license could be cancelled, or it could lead to road-rage; then the sensible thing might be to avoid this kind of ugly situation.

  • They say, it is the law of averages. If you are fined for unknowingly violating the traffic rule, there are also times when you aren't fined for knowingly violating the traffic rules. (How many times do we jump a signal because the road is empty and there isn't a cop nearby?)

    I think it all evens out. Traffic rules are here to stay (& become stricter)

  • @Mainak: You've definitely got a point. In many cases, the law of averages catches up. Unfortunately, in my case and in the case of several of my friends - this does not hold.

    You ask "How many times do we jump a signal because the road is empty and there isn't a cop nearby?" The answer to that is Never. Even when I sometimes drive home past 2 A.M; some signal lights in Bangalore (for example the one near Raj Bhavan) are still on. And believe it or not; I do wait patiently for the light to turn green in spite of virtually empty roads. And this is not me alone. I know many people who make a conscious effort to follow the rules - regardless of how "stupid" we look; whether a cop is around or not; irrespective of the time of the day.

    If most (at least educated) people start following this; I think it'l make the job of policing much easier for the cops.

    You are absolutely right in saying the rules are here to stay and become stricter. I just hope that these dont act as a window of opportunity for the corrupt!

  • Just to sum it up in a few lines -
    (1) In situation of life and death, no rules, first life has to be saved. Why I said here as you mentioned at 10:30 PM someone is honking, yes that time if there is a signal instead act judiciously thinking about the safety or oneself and then about the rules.
    (2) The people like me and you who are trying to do every other possible bit to follow rules and make others also to follow for a better society to live, so, follow your heart there, I mean such unobvious cases, when you had done that and not really a mistake of yours, compromise and go ahead, because given a choice I have to choose you (or similar people) to be there on planet to save others :-). [Here I mean, to do good for others].

  • Hmm..err…n how exactly are they suppose to differentiate between the deliberate violator and the ones who do it by-mistake? N wats the chance that a “by-mistake” won’t cause a limb or life??? Are u aware of the six sigma principle.basically says there can be only 3.4 defects in a million..One small mistake will cost Too much?No value can ever be attatched to a life rite? It is ALWAYS too much of a cost. Which means “by-mistakes” are just not done rite?

    Having played the devil’s advocate… let me say wat I actually think…Yeah..even I feel they shld catch the actual culprits instead of the one who is actually a responsible n safe driver generally. But there is no easy way to differentiate.

    N tho I would love to rant abt this…the fact is I don’t have in mind any solution as to how one can actually bring abt effective implementation of law in india. That is the root casue of all these probs. N ‘coz I don’t have a solution..i feel helpless n sad for my country..our country!

    - My husband was in india abt 8 yrs back..n he was saying that the traffic cop accepted a bribe of 2 RS.. [freakin 2 RS!!!] for running traffic lights.
    - An uncle we know..50 odd yrs..mind you..had a scooter in Mumbai,,He was caught for breaking some traffic rule, the scooter had no registration, no RC book nothing. His license had expired n the cop let him go ‘coz he mentioned that he knew “xyz” who was a superintendent or some such thing! RIDICULOUS or wat!!!
    - A friend travelled from the us to india last year..he was carrying many electronic goods n the ppl working at the customs pulled him over for questioning. He gave them 10 RUPEES [not $ , mind you] n they let him go

    Are these ppl so badly underpaid?N if that’s how easily u can get away with stuff..why wouldn’t anyone n everyone bribe?! Why would laws not be broken? N mind u its not only we Indians who have that mentality. Its common everywhere..Even in the us..given the slightest chance ppl break rules.they do obnoxious things. I was shocked to see that ppl litter the place with coke cans and plastic even here. After all thay have grown up being taught not to litter, right?

    But implementation of laws is darned good n strict here..n that’s why…some sense prevails n its not as crazy as in india.

    NYC is a highly populated city..feels like Mumbai..n u shld see how dirty the place is..n the way ppl drive in that city. Population is india’s biggest challenge..mabbe THAT is the solution?

    PS:oooops got carried sorry for the loooooooong comment!But thanks for triggering the thought.

  • @Deepak: Agree to both the points :) Amen!

    @Pavi: Quite a long comment - and there are too many points worth discussing crammed in there :)

    Ok, to begin with - it is of course very difficult for the cops to figure out whether a traffic violation was on purpose or by mistake; especially cases like signal jumping. Note that this is not the case with some other forms of violations. For example, you don't speak on your mobile phone while driving (yes- even 2-wheeler riders do this); or drive on the wrong side of the road median "by mistake". Having said that - I believe in the cops being fair and just - hence a person who breaks a rule unwittingly should not be allowed to go scot-free!

    But look at it this way - a cab or auto driver breaks the rules 10 times per day. How is it that he goes unnoticed? How is it that a person who unknowingly breaks a rule immediately gets caught and fined? I mean what is the probability?

    And that brings us to your next point - about the utterly "cheap" bribes which are paid. Well, you know what? There are 2 things here
    1) The cops want "decent" bribes these days. That's why you wont see them pulling over auto or cab drivers. They are selective - stop only those cars on which you see a company parking sticker!
    2) In the event that they do pull over someone but he doesn't have much money - then it becomes an ego problem. How can they let him go scot-free? "Izzat ka sawaal hai"! They end up extracting whatever little the guy has - even SodexHo meal coupons!

    Regarding population - I don't agree. Highly populated cities like Kuala Lumpur have much better implementation of traffic laws than smaller cities in India. It is only a matter of mindset. I think if just the educated middle class starts an initiative then things will improve a lot. But alas - they are the ones who break the rules in the first place - and then they are the ones who complain about Bangalore traffic and bangalore roads!

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