In a space-starved city like Mumbai, it's not that too many vehicles on the roads cause traffic jams. There are issues like encroachment of pavements, which forces pedestrians to spill on to roads, and poor maintenance of roads that contribute to the problem. But law enforcers cite lack of awareness and discipline among the citizens as a big factor. Officials say while some refuse to follow rules, many break them out of to sheer ignorance.
According to Thelma Mirande, deputy secretary of the Western India Automobile Association, "There is a huge increase in the number of vehicles and the road area is the same. And since everybody is in a hurry, they break rules. This was not the situation in Mumbai about 15 years ago." Officials and experts say the problem starts right from the process of issuing the driving licence. There is no mechanism in place to scrutinise applications. Many do not even have to undergo a driving test before the licence is issued to them, they say. These applicants, who manage everything through agents, are bound to flout norms as they are not aware of them in the first place.
A senior officer said every traffic rule has been made to benefit the motorists only. He said there have been many instances where bikers have died or suffered grievous injuries for not wearing a headgear. Similarly, ban on lane cutting, jumping signal, speeding, etc. are to prevent road mishaps, he said. Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Dr B K Upadhyay says most motorists follow rules when they spot a traffic constables. He said rules are mandatory and people must follow them at all times. "If people follow these norms, the problem of traffic jams can be reduced and also the road mishaps."
As for pedestrians, they have no option but to hit the roads as most footpaths in the city are occupied by hawkers. Krishnaraj Rao, an activist who has been championing the cause of pedestrians, said, "Pedestrians do not figure in the scheme of things of the traffic police." However, a senior traffic officer said that the BMC must step in to clear footpaths. "The civic body should ensure that pedestrians have space on pavements."
What rules say
Driving at excessive speed (section 183 of MV Act)
Offenders shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 400/-. For repeat offenders, the fine may extend to Rs 1000/-
Drink driving (sec 185 of MV Act)
Punishable for the first offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs 2000/-, or with both; and for a second or subsequent offence if committed within 3 years of the commission if the previous similar offence, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or with fine which may extend to Rs. 3000/-, or with both.
Overtaking dangerously is punishable under section 6 (a) of Rules of Road Regulations and section 177 of Motor Vehicles Act. A fine of Rs 100 is imposed under these sections.