Sometimes you really do feel sorry for the traffic policemen that you see on the road. Rain or shine, they are there directing traffic and trying to bring a little bit of order to things on the move. They don’t have the needed equipment, and put themselves in a dangerous position and we often hear about them being the victims of accidents as well. In 2012, there was the incident of a policeman being run over at Borella junction, and very recently a lady officer was involved in an accident in Bambalapitiya.
Although we feel sorry for these people, there are also the situations where we curse them for making trouble for the simple man, whilst completely ignoring the gross violators such as Private Bus drivers. Even last week, I was parked at KFC Marine Drive and noted several city cops (with the white and blue arm band) catching the motorists that were ignoring the solid white line. I was very happy to see this. Then I saw them stop a Nissan Sunny Car and quickly letting him go after a small chat. Although I don’t know what exactly was said, how could they release him whilst still catching others? He surely did not have a medical emergency since his flashers were not on.
What are the all too common violations that we see on the roads? Here’s a few:
- Three Wheelers and Motor Cycles that routinely travel on the wrong side of the road without caring if it’s a single or double solid white line, or even whether there is oncoming traffic – they simply expect us to get out of the way
- Three Wheelers and Motor Cycles with non working front head lamps at night
- Three Wheelers, Motor Cycles, Lorries, and especially Buses without any tail lights
- Motor Cycle riders without helmets on, or sometimes the parents are wearing helmets but the children aren’t
- Buses and other heavy vehicles and three wheelers traveling on the right hand side lane even though they should be on the left.
- Motorists talking on mobile phones whilst driving
- Unsafe loads on lorries and trucks
- Illegally parked vehicles
- Running of Red lights
- Three wheelers that make sudden turns in the middle of the road, without signalling their intentions.
- Three Wheelers and buses loading / unloading passengers in the middle of the road and blocking traffic
- Non-roadworthy vehicles with pieces about to fall off
- Smoke belching vehicles (it’s a wonder how they got the Green Certificate also)
The best solution is to have a better equipped police force with patrol vehicles that are actually used for patrolling purposes.
Even if you take these nice Hyundai patrol cars introduced few years ago, they were inadequate in number once they were distributed all over the country. Even the new Subaru’s on the Galle Highway are not effectively used. I say this because I see so many people speeding past me, when I’m going at the legal speed of 100. The new Scorpios are also not effective for this purpose since they are not steady at high speed, and also not adequate since only one vehicle was given per police station, and this is also mostly used by the OIC.
If we were to ask the people responsible as to why patrol cars are not introduced in this way for this purpose, the all too common answer would be that it is too expensive and that the Police department cannot afford it. Let’s work it out and see.
First, what I expect is for the Police Cars / Patrols to be active and chase down the offending motorists and issue spot fines. Secondly, For the purpose of reducing the chance for corrupt officers to take bribes, we should use the American system where each squad car has a camera and a recorder so that everything is recorded as evidence.
Each squad car would have the most basic equipment and they don’t even have to be specially made expensive cars. A basic good car (anything other than the cheaper Tatas / Mahindras and Chinese ones, since we need them to be durable) could be bought and fitted with the needed equipment here. A proper siren can be bought, and a Light Bar and Spot Light can be easily manufactured locally.
Since the Police Department is a Govt Unit, they can import the vehicles on Duty Free basis. If we can give duty free perks to ministers and MP’s, surely we can give such a benefit to our own Police Department?
OK, let’s calculate as follows. Let’s assume that a basic car with a high powered engine can be bought for $15,000 and that the lights, siren, paint job, other equipment, etc cost another $2,500 for a grand total of $17,500 per unit, which is approximately 2,275,000 Rupees.
Now, go out and spend 15 minutes on the road, and count the number of traffic offences that you see. I can easily count 15-20 offences. Is it unreasonable to say that a single cop car could issue 100 ticket penalties in a day? I think it’s more than possible. At a minimum of Rs. 500 per ticket, that’s 50,000 income per day. Assume that the vehicle is used every day of the month with different cops (if we assume that they take leave) giving a total of 50,000 into 30 which equals 1,500,000 for the month minus the operating cost such as fuel and servicing. Investment is covered in just two months of operations.
The Police Department could actually become a profit making department if the above workings are at least sensible. Two or three months after launching this project, the people will get to know how this system works and be more careful and obey the rules and laws. This will reduce the income, but by this time, the investment would have been recovered and the original purpose of getting people to be law abiding citizens would have been achieved.
We can start this as a pilot project in Colombo and if successful, implement it in other cities as well.