Never has the enforcement of rules pertaining to motor vehicles, such as the compulsory wearing of helmets or the fastening of seat belts, been as stringent as it is now. A major change in enforcement was brought in thanks to repeated orders on the issue of road safety by the Madras High Court. Today, as a result, the number of fatalities in road traffic accidents has also come down considerably, Traffic Police sources claim.
Vijayaragavan, an advocate, said, “Thanks to the High Court zealously following up on the enforcement of the helmet and seat belt rule, there is a palpable change. Policemen have been literally browbeaten into carrying out the mandate of the court on the ground. Thanks to such perseverance, in the face of adverse reactions, everyone is now compelled to obey.”
It is not only the traffic police that has contributed to reduced road accidents but also the changing mindset of the public. Hefty fines under new rules are a contributory factor, too.
“People are slowly changing now. They are obeying the rules. Even children riding pillion are seen wearing helmets,” said Kannan, a traffic police constable. One can now see policemen at nearly every street corner in the city involved in random traffic checks. Users of motor vehicles without helmets can no longer avoid paying hefty fines.
In recent days, traffic police teams across Chennai have taken the job of spreading awareness very seriously and adopted many innovative methods to create awareness among motorists about helmets. They give demonstrations on what happens when rules of the road are not followed, mobile vans screen videos on road safety rules, and sometimes, as an incentive, those wearing helmets are rewarded with free helmets, sweets and chocolates.
More than 340 traffic inspectors/ reserve sub-inspectors, along with traffic constables, are involved in this awareness campaign. Young police Constables from the Tamil Nadu Special Police have also been deployed to assist the traffic officials.
A total 13,68,318 cases were booked against motorists for not wearing helmets within the city limits, and 5,84,585 pillion riders were challaned. The number of fatalities stood at 1,232 and the figure reduced to 1,190, according to official sources. Additional Commissioner of Police A. Arun said the fatalities had decreased by 42 compared with last year.
“Our enforcement level went up manifold in the past few months. Last year, 7.8 lakh cases were booked for helmetless riding. Now, it has touched 13.68 lakh as of end November,” he said.
The traffic police is also conducting a vigorous campaign to ensure drivers of four-wheelers wear seat belts. The city traffic police booked/ challaned 1.74 lakh persons for the offence of not wearing seat belts.
Now, the State has a strong institutional framework, integrating various government departments such as the Police, Transport, Highways, Health, Education and other stakeholder departments at the highest level. Performance on the enforcement of traffic laws and and achievements on the road safety front was made a critical part of the assessment of annual performance in appraisal reports of field officers.
Professor Venkatesh Balasubramanian of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras’ Engineering Department, and Advisor to the Tamil Nadu Accident and Emergency Care Initiative (TAEI), said: “Data-driven research and analysis of traffic accidents assists field officers in combating traffic accidents. RADMS, a software, is being used for the collection of data on road accidents, and their causes and analyses for prevention [of accidents]. A new, comprehensive system called TARA is being pilot tested for getting better quality of data, and hence, the analysis based on it.”
Promodh Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Traffic and Road Safety Cell, said: “In comparison to 2016, up to the current year so far, there has been a big jump by 120% in the enforcement of the rules of the Motor Vehicles Act. More than 10 lakh driving licences have been suspended/ cancelled and more than 9 lakh awareness campaigns have been organised in last three years.”
Mr. Kumar also said Highway Patrol vehicles had moved 17,554 road accident victims to the hospital during the golden hour, of which 13,629 persons were saved in 2018, and in the current year, up to October, 17,401 injured persons had been immediately shifted to the hospital, during the golden hour, by the Highway Patrol, among whom 10,719 persons had survived.
The immediate aim is to reduce the number of fatalities in road accidents by 50% by 2020, and reduce it to 0% by 2030.
More importantly, with the data in hand, the authorities also have ambulances from the 108 service, waiting near accident-prone zones on standby, with the average response time improved to 13 minutes in cities and 17 minutes in rural areas across the State.
With the 108 app in place, callers did not have to describe their precise location to seek help. On the dashboard of the ambulance driver, the 108 app helped mark out the exact location of the accident.
Protocol in place
The TAEI integrated 26 Government Medical College Hospitals, 31 District Headquarters Hospitals and 21 Government Hospitals working in strategic locations across the State. Every TAEI centre has a designated Trauma Nodal Officer and Nurse Coordinators on duty at all times. Earlier, the victim had to be rushed to the nearest hospital for entering an accident report and only then could the victim be taken to a district hospital or bigger hospital. In the new system, each hospital has trained staff who are skilled and protocols for management have been established.