There has been almost 15 per cent decline in deaths due to road accidents in the first two months of 2019 in the state. According to official data, 54 persons died in road accidents between January and February last year, while this year the deaths have come down to 46 during the same period. As has been the case over the years, a vast majority of those who succumbed to injuries sustained in accidents this year were two-wheeler riders. They included 32 riders and seven pillion riders. The police attribute the decrease in mortality to sustained efforts on road safety education, prosecution and other measures taken by the authorities as well as adherence of growing number of drivers to traffic rules. Since the police started strict enforcement of rules the number of accidents saw a downward slide, with 20 per cent drop in the first two months of 2018 as compared to previous year, which has further come down by 15 per cent in the first two months of the current calendar year. Had the law enforcement officials acted with the same determination and zeal earlier many a lives could have been saved.
The efforts of law enforcement officials in enforcing discipline among motorists got a boost with the introduction of the traffic sentinel scheme. The sentinel scheme has not only helped in penalizing thousands of motorists but also instilling fear of getting caught in the minds of an increasing number of four-wheeler drivers who were engaged in overspeeding, illegal overtaking, talking on phone as well as two-wheeler riders who were also engaged in such violations and did not wear a helmet. The sentinels have to be credited for bringing down casualties. It is evident that strict, sincere and consistent enforcement of laws can be effective. The police and transport departments need to be relentless in enforcement. Among the measures adopted by the authorities is raising awareness about road safety rules among motorists. It is strange that they have to conduct awareness drives among motorists even though every person who is issued a driving license has to be aware of the rules and regulations. It indicates that driving license applicants are not tested for knowledge of rules and driving skills at the time of grant of license.
The number of traffic violations is still very large. Around 500 traffic violations continue to be recorded every day by traffic sentinels. There are hundreds of other violations that are recorded by the enforcement officials. The number of traffic violations might actually be in thousands every day as every violator is not caught. There are cases in which motorists, especially two-wheeler riders, speed away when signalled by the traffic police to stop. The men and women entrusted with enforcement find themselves handicapped in acting against such violators. In a good number of cases the registration numbers of two-wheeler vehicles are so small that they are hardly visible to the police. Though it is mandatory that every number plate and vehicle registration number have to be of standard size, the law is grossly violated both by four-wheeler and two-wheeler drivers. There has been no strict action with regard to these violations. Another law that is violated grossly is use of mobile phone while riding or driving. Obviously there are still a large number of drivers that are not deterred by enforcement by police and transport department officials.
As the number of vehicles in the state is increasing every year the authorities need to come out with some out-of-the-box ideas to drastically reduce the number of traffic rules violations. Not only the process for granting licensing should be made stricter but there should also be continuous checks on the motorists, especially those found to be frequently violating the laws. The penalty for violation of traffic laws is not deterrent. Efforts should be made to record every violation through electronic gadgets. Other means should be adopted to bring every violator to book. If need be, the sentinel scheme can be improved to achieve better results. The authorities must impose with harsher penalties such as heavier fines. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has introduced a new scheme under which motorists fined for violations can have their penalty waived by 25, 50 and even 100 per cent, provided they do not commit the same offence in the next three months, six months and one year, respectively. Introduction of similar incentive schemes in the state could help bring about road discipline and curb violations. However those who persist in violation of rules must be dealt with severely.