Poor traffic sense, fixed time cycle for signals in peak and nonpeak hours blamed for motorists flouting traffic rules
GURUGRAM: On Friday morning, at a traffic signal on a Sector Road near Huda City Centre, a grey Mahindra Scorpio took a sly right turn toward South City in violation of a red light. Before the driver could make the turn, however, the Scorpio landed in the way of oncoming traffic, causing dozens of vehicles to be held up for a whole 10 minutes during rush hour.
Adhering to traffic signals is crucial to streamline the movement of vehicles. However, in Gurugram, many motorists refuse to comply, creating a problem of safety and mobility, traffic police said. By not observing traffic lights, motorists pose serious risks to themselves and the lives of others, said residents, officials and experts.
Jumping the red light has had more serious consequences in the city than just traffic jams.
On April 6, a traffic police official was hit by a Maruti Suzuki Swift when he was trying to stop a driver who broke a traffic signal at Kushal chowk in Sector 49. Despite being signaled to stop, the driver did not comply and fled after hitting the police official.
A spot visit to four major intersections in the city—bakhtawar Chowk, HUDA City Centre junction, IFFCO Chowk Metro station and an unnamed traffic signal at Sector 47/51 dividing road (near the women police station)— revealed that jumping signals is a common practice on city roads.
Bakhtawar Chowk is one of city’s busiest intersections which experiences high passenger volume that includes incoming traffic from Rajiv Chowk, Subhash Chowk, HUDA City Center crossing and Sector 51—whose arterial road networks converge here. Despite the presence of a small traffic booth at the junction, which is manned by traffic police officials, motorists frequently jump the signal.
In April, Bakhtawar Chowk was identified as one of Gurugram’s most accident-prone spots in a study conducted by Haryana Vision Zero, a team of road safety experts, along with engineering officials from the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) and the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran, formerly Huda.
Their findings showed that at least three motorists jump the traffic signal each time the light changed from any end.
“The rate of motorists flouting traffic signals was alarming at Bakhtawar Chowk. Our study had found that the primary reason why people jumped traffic signals was due to the waiting time. Motorists had to wait for nearly three minutes at one end before the signal turned green. People often lost their patience and jumped the signal,” Haryana Vision Zero programme coordinator Sarika Panda Bhatt said.
Similarly, at the HUDA City Center crossing, where traffic police officials are conspicuously present, motorists can be seen violating traffic norms and jumping signals. At the spot where commuters come from Sector 44, many can be seen jumping the signal and heading towards Sushant Lok-1.
According to Aradhana Rungta, a resident of Sector 47, people violate rules here as there is lack of clarity on the time window of the signal.
There’s also confusion about a turn at this junction, which is cordoned during peak hours with jersey barriers to streamline traffic movement. But, during nonpeak hours, when the jersey barriers are not placed, commuters told HT they were unsure about whether the traffic signal allows them to take a right turn or not. So, they said, they flout the rules.
“I am still uncertain whether the traffic signal allows me to take a right turn or not, and I am not the only one who is confused. I wait for a group of vehicle to jump the signal and then steer my vehicle with theirs as well,” Aradhana said.
Motorists are also tempted to jump the signal as the next exit for HUDA City Centre is quite far. When the turn is cordoned, motorists have to travel further to the next exit opposite Sector 29 fire brigade to turn toward HUDA City Center.
The crossing near IFFCO Chowk Metro station, which leads towards Leisure Valley Road, HUDA City Center junction and the Metro station, is another troublesome spot with a unique problem. Commuters here violate two traffic rules at the same time.
The first is that signals are frequently jumped from either the Leisure Valley road or the HUDA City Center junction to head towards the Hamilton Court Road, a one-way between 6am and 10pm. If commuters jump the signal to head towards the Hamilton Court Road, which only allows traffic to head towards IFFCO Chowk Metro, they inevitably come in the way of speeding traffic on a one-way road.
Subhash Boken, spokesperson of Gurugram police, said that the issue of traffic light violations was prevalent across the city, and blamed it on people’s poor understanding of the importance of road safety rules.
“Motorists here (in Gurugram) don’t have any sense of road safety. The rules are made not just for them, but also to keep pedestrians safe. Everyone feels like they can violate the law without harming the others, but this is not always the case,” he said.
A few kilometers from this very spot there is another unnamed three-way junction, where traffic from Vikas Marg and Satpaul Mittal Marg converge, and where motorists jump traffic signals quite rampantly.
The trisection at the Sector 47/51 dividing road is a major congestion point during peak hours. Regular commuters attributed the jams to people jumping traffic signals.
“Traffic signal at any of the ends only turns green for less than a minute, and the waiting time is nearly 10 minutes. Naturally, commuters lose their patience and jump the signal,” Abhishek Dayal, a resident of Nirvana Country, said.
Transport experts offered multiple solutions to the problem.
Sewa Ram, a transport systems design expert, said, “The problem is that traffic signals in Gurugram work on a fixed time cycle. As a result, in non-peak hours, commuter delay increases and motorists are provoked to jump the signal. The time cycles of traffic lights need to be reduced from about 120 to 150 seconds in peak hour to 60-odd seconds in non-peak hours.”
Ram added that cycle time for traffic lights needs to be variable, and that they should take into account passenger volume in the real time.
Experts added that the issue of commuters jumping traffic signals can be resolved by using CCTV cameras, through which e-challans can be issued to violators.
“Enforcement is key for people to abide or not to abide by traffic rules. While deployment of traffic police personnel at key locations is important, we need to understand that they can’t be present at all the locations all the time. Therefore, we need to use technology for effective enforcement,” Amit Bhatt, director of integrated transport at Wriindia, said.
Chandigarh traffic police has been fining violators with the help of CCTV cameras since the early 2000’s. Between 2010-15 the police issued 2.5 lakh violations through e-challans.
In the national capital, the Delhi traffic police plans to install sensors in signals that are equipped with high-end cameras capable of recognizing number plate even if the vehicles are at a high speed and issue e-challans.
When asked when Gurugram will adopt the e-challan system, ACP Hira Singh said, “We are also gearing up to issue e-challans to check traffic light violation, among others.”
On being asked specifically about the violations going unchecked despite the presence of traffic police personnel on ground at Bakhtawar Chowk and the HUDA City Center junction, Singh said he “will investigate the matter”.
Between January 1 and June 1 this year, a total of 690 challans were drawn for motorists jumping red lights in violation of the Motor Vehicles Act. A total of 1,969 such violations were registered in 2017.