They work seven days a week regardless of weather condition, never go on breaks, don’t take bribes and best of all, they require no pay. They are – wait for it – Bangalore’s new lifelike cardboard traffic policemen, and they’re watching you!
India’s tech-city of Bangalore has been facing serious difficulties dealing with traffic violations. Despite low car ownership, the rate of row fatalities has risen sharply in this city of 8.5 million people to at least two road-related deaths per day, in 2012. Some sources say Bangalore needs at least 6,000 traffic policemen to keep things under control, but it currently has a personnel of 3,000. Instead of supplementing their ranks, local authorities have come up with an ingenious idea to make drivers behave at the wheel that doesn’t require significant expenditures - life-size cardboard cutouts of traffic policemen strategically placed on the city’s busiest roads. Only three of them have been deployed so far, but results have been so encouraging that 10 more khaki-wearing fake cops will soon be rolled out to improve Bangalore’s chaotic traffic.
“Policemen cannot be omnipresent at every road and every junction because we don’t have that much strength – the tendency among road users is that whenever they see there is no traffic policemen at any stretch of the road, they try to violate traffic rules – particularly one way,” Dr. MA Saleem, Additional Commissioner of Police, told NDTV. ”Impact has been quite good. A lot of people when they see from a little distance, they immediately turn back. In fact one auto driver was found talking to that person.” Let’s face it, when people start talking to cutouts, you know you’re doing something right. Still, Bangalore officials are taking no chances, and plan to regularly replace the fake traffic cops with real ones to make sure drivers don’t get too comfortable.
Feedback from Bangalore drivers has been positive. ”It’s good. From a distance it looks like a real cop,” said one driver. ”Two or three times we thought it was a real policeman standing there and we slowed down,”said another. It looked like the cardboard policemen experiment was a big success, until recently, when one of them was stolen…That’s right, someone stole a cop in India. But one incident isn’t going to stop these paper Tigers from doing their duty. To prevent things like this from happening again and to catch traffic violators in the act, authorities plan on equipping the cardboard cutouts with video cameras.
Lifeless traffic cops aren’t totally new. China has been using life-size plastic cops for years, but they’re nowhere as realistic as the ones used in Bangalore.