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30, 40, 50... Watch your speed, roads have eyes now

30, 40, 50... Watch your speed, roads have eyes now

Pay Heed As Repeat Offender Can Have Licence Suspended

New Delhi:

Those who abide by traffic rules have for long rued the fact that the rule of the jungle prevails in the city. Drivers jump signals at will, weave through traffic, change lanes whimsically, honk like maniacs and increasingly drive on the wrong side. There is not much visible by way of enforcement with the traffic police, short on manpower, finding itself hopelessly outnumbered and carrying out drives sporadically. Technology has finally come to their aid as far as enforcing the speed limit is concerned. Between February and July this year, over 39 lakh challans for “overspeeding” detected by a network of cameras were issued.

And, the limit is, with a few exceptions, 50 kmph across the city! That’s the red line you ought not breach, not only because the penalty has been hiked to Rs 1,000 from Rs 400 in the amended motor vehicle law. Your primary worry should be that on the fourth such offence, your driving licence will be suspended for three months.

The Union ministry of road transport and highways had last year increased the speed limit on city roads to 70 kmph, but in Delhi there are very few stretches where you can go up to that speed. The local authorities get to take the call on this, and for Delhi it is 50 kmph, they have decided.

Driving at a steady 50 kmph many say is a task and yet it’s more or less the global norm. Maintaining a speed of less than 50 kmph lest you fall foul of the law-enforcement authorities and get booked by a camera can take all your concentration because a barely detectable pressure on the pedal on a stretch that’s fairly empty can take you beyond that in no time with the camera at the next intersection making no allowance, howsoever small the infraction.

Once you stay below 50 kmph in the city, you can see the world pass you by. That speeding cluster bus, wayward autorickshaw or a swarm of two-wheelers whizzing past you or even the SUV behind you, honking furiously to get you out of the way.

TOI asked traffic police for a break-up of the different modes of vehicles challaned but didn’t get any figures. Twowheelers largely are getting away with speeding it seems but cars are a sitting duck. One wonders how autos and buses are being served challans. Forget about uniform enforcement and just watch that speedometer if you drive a car.

The camera-installed stretches are spread all across the city (see box for a few) and the number may only go up in future. The cameras are installed on gantries of the traffic light at 100 locations and take pictures of the numberplates of vehicles found exceeding the speed limit. A challan follows either through post but increasingly through an SMS with the facility to pay online.

The cameras can capture a speeding vehicle from a distance of 300 metres and can spot it even in the dark. The image of the vehicle is relayed to the control room from where the challan is issued. The laser-based system is equipped to automatically focus on a car and determine its speed. The camera also logs the date, time, site and GPS location of the infraction.

There is one stretch, however, where the speed limit drops to 30 kmph! It’s the Panchsheel Park stretch of Outer Ring Road, and the speed was restricted by NGT on both carriageways after residents complained about air and noise pollution. No prizes for guessing that few — if any vehicle — is driven below that speed here, making every driver an offender. But, relax, there are no cameras on this particular stretch yet. And the nearest intersection is far away. But the moment you go down the Chirag Dilli flyover, the speed limit as mentioned on the right is 40. Look to your left, and it’s 50! Near Pamposh Enclave, it drops to 40 again. This is how you make a mockery of law enforcement.

Similarly, when the law-abiding road-user is outnumbered by the lawless — see how vehicles are thrust into moving traffic after jumping the signal at busy intersections like ITO, two-wheeler drivers violate traffic rules at will and wrong side driving by e-rickshaws and others becomes the norm — the law loses its majesty.

Dr S Velmuruggan, senior scientist at CRRI, says speed limits are set according to the standards mentioned in traffic rule books worldwide. “However, we find that in a city like Delhi, more than 95% of the drivers are in violation of the rules since the limits are set blindly without realising the impact on the rest of the road. A comprehensive study for fixing speed limits for each city should be carried out and prosecution must be strict,” he says.

Piyush Tewari of Save Life Foundation feels speed limits should be fixed on the basis of the amount of speed the stretch can handle. “We have to keep in mind that more than 60% of fatal accidents take place due to speeding. A driver might feel that he would be able to stop a vehicle by slamming the brakes, but one should also remember that a vehicle doesn’t stop immediately. These points should be considered before setting the speed limit,” he says.