KOCHI: As lockdown presented them with empty roads and the police officers turned their attention to Covid-related duties, motorists in Kerala seemed to have turned speedsters throwing caution to the wind.
According to the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) data, 53,895 incidents of speeding were recorded on national and state highways during the lockdown period until May 10.
Concerned about the motorists’ behaviour, the authorities are planning to blacklist the errant drivers and suspend their licences. The Motor Vehicles Department’s speed cameras installed along the stretch from Kowdiar (Thiruvananthapuram) to Manjewshwar (Kasaragod) recorded the most violations — 45,263 — and the Walayar-Vadakkenchery NH stretch 8,632.
Though the number of speed violations has come down from a monthly average of 3 lakh, the motorists’ behavioural pattern has been causing the MVD and police department real worry. “The data shows the real culture of our motorists. The motorists were allowed to travel only to meet their inevitable requirements during the lockdown, but they misused the permission to test their driving skills.
This behavioural issue is causing a lot of worry for us as speed violation is a major cause of accidents in the state,” said Safe Kerala project’s nodal officer Shibu K Itty, who compiled the data after the Supreme Court Committee for Road Safety had directed the state to take stringent action against rash driving.
Motor Vehicles Dept to be harsh on errant drivers
Besides imposing a fine of Rs 1,500 for each violation -- which should fetch the state coffers around Rs 8 crore in total -- the MVD has decided to be harsh on errant drivers. “The vehicles which violated road safety during the lockdown period will be blacklisted and the drivers’ licences will be suspended for a certain period. We’ll take strict action against those drivers who crossed 100kmph during this time.
“The vacant roads and clear view are not a licence for testing one’s driving skills. The department will resume manual checking along the stretches within a week,” said Joint Transport Commissioner Rajeev Puthalath. As per the State Crime Records Bureau, 26 persons were killed in 173 accidents in the state during the first phase of lockdown (March 25 to April 14) due to rash driving. The corresponding period last year saw 291 deaths and 2,352 accidents.
“We are still depending on the conventional method of enforcing road safety. Even after the MVD and the police took several efforts to end accidents, the graph is still going up. The department should think of IT-enabled enforcement. They should also seek the help of agencies like the World Resource Institute for the same. The government should consider the accidents as a grave issue, just like how we are treating the Covid-19 pandemic,” said former senior deputy transport commissioner B J Antony, an expert in