KOCHI: ‘Red Devils’ was the term once used by Kochiites for the reckless private buses that terrorised people on the roads. The colour may have changed, but their devil-may-care attitude hasn’t. With a complete disregard to road rules, including lane traffic, these death traps continue to have a free rein, zig-zagging through the road at their whims.
While the rulebook dictates strict adherence to lane traffic and bans overtaking through the left side, Kochi drivers give two hoots to such rules. To follow their time schedule, they zig-zag through roads, throwing traffic out of gear and creating total mayhem.
Shockingly, the Traffic Police are doing nothing. “We can’t enforce lane traffic for buses as no other
vehicles follow it. It won’t be practical to bring this rule just for buses,” says a top traffic police officer in the city. According to V Vimal, station house officer, West Kochi City Traffic Police zigzag driving is the major reason for accidents. “Due to this, other drivers can’t anticipate the direction the bus would take. We, however, book erring drivers with IPC 279 for rash driving and levy a fine as well,” he said.
Bus schedule updating
Experts cite discrepancies in the scheduling of buses as a prime reason for the trend. “Neither the Motor Vehicles Department nor the Traffic Police considers the rapid increase in the number of vehicles when they annually update the bus timings. In the end, the timing on the permit and actual running time will be different. To escape from remitting the fine levied by RTO, the drivers resort to rash driving,” said
D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).
Halting of buses at stops as per the whims and fancies of the driver is another issue. “It is terrifying to see the way buses approach the bus stops. Running away by holding on to our dear life is the only option left. They stop according to their convenience. We have to run behind the buses through the busy roads,” said Anasooya, an Infopark employee. However, the police don’t think this is a serious issue. “Until the stoppage leads to a traffic block, we normally won’t charge any case against the buses,” said an officer with East Kochi City Traffic Police.
The partial implementation of speed governors has also prevented the police from tracking speeding buses. “Though the department has ensured the installation of speed governors, the bus owners are not ready to add the necessary AIS-140 software in them. Unless it is installed, no one can track these buses,” said a top official from the Motor Vehicle Department Official on condition of anonymity.
Bus owners deny the charge. “No official meeting was held over the matter. As of now, we have installed the speed governors in every bus,” said an owner.
Though several people have lost their lives and many others are constantly complaining against the zig-zagging and rash driving, the authorities are turning a blind eye towards the
issue. Why? “Because there is a possible link between the authorities and drivers. There are more than 10 police officers who own buses in benami names. This is why nobody does anything to rein in the drivers. As many as 10 buses registered in our association are owned by police officers, but all of them are in benami names,” says a member of the Private Bus Operators
Terror on road
Zigzagging and non-adherence to lane traffic
Halting at the driver’s whims
Illegal overtaking through the left side
Incessant honking to terrorise other road users