The amended Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) that came into effect from November 1 has imposed heavy fines on traffic rule violators. However, violators in Ahmedabad alone have not paid penalty amounting to around Rs 60 crore in four years till August this year, according to a study by the students of the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad.
The study titled, ‘Don’t cross that stop line: Characterising Traffic Violations in Metropolitan Cities’, mined through over three million e-challans or electronic traffic violation receipts issued after the Ahmedabad traffic police introduced the system across the city in 2015. The automated traffic management system was launched on a pilot basis in 2014. The system has a network of 6,000 video surveillance cameras dedicated to red light violations at 135 traffic junctions.
However, according to Tejas Patel, Deputy Commissioner of Police of traffic, Ahmedabad, the amount of unpaid e-challans is Rs 53 crore till November 4 this year since 2015 when the automated traffic management system was implemented across the city. “We have an e-challan recovery team under the DCP of east zone and DCP of west zone of the city and at present. Our teams are recovering unpaid e-challans worth nearly Rs 3 lakh per day, on an average. We have seen an improvement in terms of recovery from eight per cent to 27 per cent at present. We aim to reach 70 per cent by the end of this financial year (March 2020),” said Patel.
Patel added that there were several cases where vehicle ownership is transferred without completing the formalities, including payment of past e-challans, thereby introducing inaccuracies in the data.
The study by five 21-year-old students — Shashank Srikanth, Aanshul Sadaria, Himanshu Bhatia, Kanay Gupta and Pratik Jain — under the mentorship of IIIT-Delhi associate professor Ponnurangam Kumaraguru started as a course project initially. It found that 73 per cent of the total 35 lakh e-challans were unpaid as of August 22, owing the government coffers Rs 59,24,30,400.
On studying violators’ behaviour regarding payment of fines, the study found that fines with lesser amounts — Rs 100 and Rs 50 — were more likely to be paid as compared to those of higher amounts. One of the objectives of amending the MVA was to increase penalty amount to dissuade citizens from committing traffic violations.
“The difference is drastic with almost 37.37% of the Rs 100 fines being paid as compared to 15.44% of Rs 2000 fines… the e-challans of overspeeding have drastically higher ratio of paid e-challans (0.60) as compared to 0.12 for BRTS lane violation where the average fine amount is Rs 1,017.67 and Rs 1,265.2 respectively,” the study says.
The study also looked at 2.3 lakh vehicles that had both paid and unpaid e-challans. “Ideally, the unpaid e-challans for any vehicle are the recently issued ones but 31.5% of those vehicles had at least one unpaid e-challan before the last paid one,” it says.
For such users of more than 72,000 vehicles, the study found lower fine amounts such as Rs 50 contributed much less to the unpaid e-challans than the higher fines. “We conclude from this that the violation type and fine amo-unt of the e-challans play a significant role in characterising fine payment,” observes the study.
The 35 lakh e-challans covered 11.77 lakh unique vehicles. DCP Patel says that the present RTO data suggests 40 lakh Ahmedabad-registered vehicles. He confirms that fines of lower denominations are paid more than higher denomination e-challans. “We have seen handing out e-challans on the spot are more effective,” he says.
The study used machine-learning along with data analytics to analyse user behaviour with respect to repeat offences and fine payment for Ahmedabad-registered vehicles and e-challans issued to them from September 2015 to August 2019, which is publicly available. E-challans issued due to red-light violations (21 lakh) and riding without helmet (10 lakh) made up more than 87% of the total 35 lakh e-challans.
The study also found that at least half of the 11.77 lakh unique vehicles, that is nearly 6 lakh individuals in the dataset, had more than two e-challans issued to them. “This suggests that the users are prone to commit traffic violations repeatedly,” the study says. The study found users with as many as 80 or more e-challans.
Patel says, “For those with more than five e-challans issued to their name, we send a notice, giving them time of 10 days. If not paid, our recovery team goes to the address. If the e-challan further remains unpaid, legal proceedings are initiated.”
According to the study, some categories of traffic violations are seen distributed across the city, while some others are concentrated in specific areas. For example, e-challan issuance for riding without helmet is seen across the city while red-light violations were restricted to specific regions, mostly Navarangpura and Dariyapur. Shyamal crossroad in West Ahmedabad had the most number of e-challans, accounting for around 7% of the 35 lakh e-challans.
Navratri over Diwali
There is a steep drop or increase in the number of e-challans issued during festival days. “Two to three days before Rath Yatra, the number of e-challans issued was zero as the police personnel were on security duty. During a few other festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr and Diwali also there was a dip in the number of e-challans issued. However, during Navratri, Rakshabandhan, Janmashtmi and Ganesh Chaturthi, there was a notable rise in the number of e-challans. The highest number of e-challans (16,500) issued on a single day in our dataset was on January 13, 2019, which is a day before Makar Sakranti…,” the study notes.