KOCHI: In what feels like a pat on the back of the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) and Traffic officials in the state, the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on traffic accidents during 2019 has revealed a decline of 0.6 per cent in road accidents in the state, as compared to 2018.However, among the seven cities in Kerala, only three have noted a decrease in road accidents -- Thiruvananthapuram by 16.3 per cent, Kochi by 7.5 per cent and Thrissur by 0.5. According to officials, enhanced enforcement seemed to have worked in their favour.
While Thiruvananthapuram saw 2,036 road accident cases reported in 2018, the number waned to 1,704 in 2019. Despite having the highest number of road accident cases in the state in 2018 of 2,311, Kochi’s numbers dwindled to 2,138 cases.Meanwhile, Thrissur saw 2,222 cases reported in 2018, which decreased to 2,210 in 2019. Despite the skyrocketing number of private vehicles in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, MVD officials highlighted that consistent enforcement activity coupled with increased fines had helped in lowering statistics.
Identification of blackspots in capital
“Enforcement was strengthened strategically by identifying blackspots in Thiruvananthapuram.National Highways here have seven such spots and state highways have three accident-prone areas. Officials were primarily deployed in those places,” said Manojkumar, regional transport officer (RTO), Enforcement, Thiruvananthapuram. While most accidents comprised overtaking, signal jumping and speeding, two-wheelers were the most affected.
“Increase fines for helmetless riders, especially that of pillion riders, also did the trick. However, enforcement activities have lessened during Covid. It will be restrengthened soon,” he added.
Divya Gopinath, deputy commissioner of Police(L&O and Traffic), Thiruvanathapuram, highlighted that targeted intervention and awareness did play a role in yielding better results when compared to basic enforcement activities.
Stricter mandates in obtaining a licence
The New Motor Vehicle Act was implemented towards the end of the year. “Increasing the fine for helmetless travelling paid off, but mandates such as suspending the licence of offenders or stricter driving tests played a bigger role in lowering the number of cases. The public is definitely aware of law and order but the fear factor increased in 2019 when fines were enhanced and surveillance cameras were placed to nail offenders,” said Babu John, RTO, ErnakulamMVD interceptors
According to Shaji Madhavan, RTO (Enforcement), Ernakulam, enforcement increased by leaps and bounds with the presence of interceptor vehicles, more surveillance cameras and with MVD officials being nearly omnipresent in Kochi. “Drivers have become highly cautious these days. This has reflected in the number of accident cases reported. However, it can be lowered further when there are proper road markings and pertaining boards,” he said.
While all the above factors have bolstered a better driving culture, the condition of roads must also be attributed to the decreased number of accidents, says G Poonguzhali IPS, Deputy Commissioner of Police(L&O and Traffic). “Earlier we had more potholed roads that were ill-maintained. In 2019, several of them have improved. Simultaneously, unscientific U-turns have been closed. Barricades and medians have been put up to regulate traffic flow. Also, to some extent, without peoples’ cooperation, we wouldn’t have a decrease in road accidents,” she added.