Mumbai: Driving through the city in a daredevil manner seems to be the order of the day, and a vast majority of motorists think nothing of breaking every traffic signal along the way. In a metropolis like Mumbai where nearly 19 lakh vehicles ply on the roads, bus drivers of Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) are no strangers to breaking the rules and putting lives at risk. They have constantly been in the news for involvement in traffic accidents, resulting in injuries and deaths on the road.
According to figures obtained from the Mumbai Traffic Police, there have been 70 cases booked against BEST bus drivers for eight traffic offences between January and June this year. Of these 70 cases, 41 are for jumping signals. Transport experts say that it is not only BEST bus drivers who are breaking the rules, but even drivers of private cars, auto and taxi drivers and bikers are known to blatantly disregard traffic signals.
BEST drivers breach red lights at smaller junctions as these locations seldom have traffic cops designated to the spot. “We tend to overlook signal jumping during peak hours because stopping these errant drivers could result in traffic snarls,” said a traffic constable on condition of anonymity.
Apart from breaching traffic signals, BEST bus drivers are seen constantly speeding through pedestrian crossings regardless of whether the pedestrians have the right of way. Till June, there have been eight cases against BEST bus drivers for breaching pedestrian crossings.
Though the BEST bus drivers are notorious for rash driving and lane cutting, apart from halting buses away from the bus stops, there are no records of these offences. Statistics provided by the traffic police show that until now, there have only been two cases of lane cutting and one case each for rash driving and talking on a mobile phone while driving.
Interestingly, the traffic cops have also booked BEST bus drivers in five cases for not parking properly. “We have a major training facility and have been training our drivers from time to time in order to improve their driving skills,” said Ashok Patil, chairman, BEST.
At least 80 people have died in over 900 accidents involving BEST buses in the past two years. The traffic police have collected compounding fines amounting to Rs 5,900 from the BEST undertaking. “It appears that there is serious lack of awareness amongst motor vehicle drivers, including BEST bus drivers in matters related to road safety and driver discipline,” said a senior traffic officer on condition of anonymity.