When you get a good thing, you don’t let it go. Unless of course you instantly find a better thing. A better thing is almost always greater than a good thing. This is great advice when it comes to choosing fish at the frozen food section. A fresh fish is a good thing. A fish that smiles and waves at you is fresher, hence a better thing.
That brings us to our traffic laws in Bangladesh and the way it is applied. In most developed countries, traffic laws primarily deal with actual driving violations. You are either going too fast or you have your car parked where it shouldn’t be, such as on top of a pedestrian. Getting people for such violations would be a good thing. But getting people for other violations is a better thing. And profitable too.
We follow a seasonal system of traffic laws. Most of the times, we can go about like wildebeests in a stampede. But when big festivities like Eid or Dubiously Happy New Year come about, traffic vigilance goes up. Cars and bikes are stopped each time with certain formulaic checks. Are the papers in order? Is it on fire? Are there drugs inside? Why is the car dirty?
Back to that good versus better analogy. Once, cars used to be stopped to check if papers were in order. People became wise. They got their papers in order. That left our diligent upholders of all things traffic-related to flip through the papers and give it back reluctantly. There was little to find wrong. And that was a good thing. But now they found a better thing. They suddenly decided additional lights, what we often call “fog lights”, are illegal. Unless they came with the car from factory, that is.
People are being fined for having “illegal” fog lights. One sergeant who stopped me to check papers replied fog lights are a hazard to society. They blind oncoming drivers. I assume if they are fitted from factory, the blinding of oncoming drivers is completely acceptable. He shuffled away as I ran after him with more questions.
That is not all. They look at wheel sizes now, something that is never in question anywhere in the world. The original size is stated in the car registration papers. Most people eventually get better tyres which often come in bigger sizes. Some just want prettier wheels which usually come in larger sizes. Boom. You have just violated the law by about Tk 2000. Do larger wheels and tyres cause danger to the roads? It is the same as wearing sneakers versus formal shoes.
Using the “originality logic”, I asked about those metal bumpers welded on to protect the plastic bumpers. Those never came with the cars and they add about 10 inches to the cars stated length in the registration papers. I was asked to quickly move along. CNG cylinders? The traffic sergeant I spoke to also moonlighted as a magician. He disappeared.
Win by numbers
All this started happening when the DMP Traffic Division started measuring performance of the officers according to how many tickets they have issued. More numbers prove more efficiency. All this while the traffic system continues to crawl slower than a drunken snail.
About 280 new cars get registered for use from BRTA every day. To manage this immense load, our traffic police are focusing on oversized wheels and fog lights. It seems our (as car users) attention to improving visibility and traction for the cars is the real danger.
Ehsanur Raza Ronny is a confused dad, all-round car guy, model car builder and cartoonist. He is also Editor of Shift (automobiles), Bytes (technology), and Next Step (career) of The Daily Star. Mail him firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Facebook for more nearly useless life hacks.
Also see: 5 ways to survive traffic in Dhaka if you're not a minister.