Indian Libertarians

Roads and Traffic Laws

NumbMonkE Saturday October 11, 2014



I was riding my bike to my friend's house and saw a man in white uniform. My immediate response, almost a reflex, was to stop and turn around. Took a longer but safer route, saved a little less than 100 Rs (considering the extra petrol I used). This is normal behavior for almost everyone in Surat, where I live. Image And I'm pretty sure this is the case almost everywhere in Indian cities. Even people wearing a helmet, which is the most common reason for stopping a driver, avoid routes with known traffic police presence. Through years, they've gotten tricky, though. Now they will change their ‘ambush points’ (as I like to call them) randomly and start their extortion racket at routes previously considered safe. If this was not enough,Image they also get aggressive and would often jump in the middle of flowing traffic, with sticks and batons flying, to 'apprehend the offender' or in other words 'loot an innocent victim'. So now I have to be extra vigilant just so I don't have to lose my own money. And this is when I haven’t even done any harm to anyone or their property.


Note: This is not a post about police behavior but about the laws which enable such behavior, about unjust fines and punishments levied on innocent citizens.


Some might say that's the price I have to pay for a safe and smooth drive down the road. I strongly disagree. We already pay taxes for that (not that I support taxation but it's a monopoly and I don't have a choice). Some might say that it encourages people to wear helmet. No! Do not consciously dilute it with mild words. It ‘forces’ them to wear helmets. The only choice they have is to wear a helmet or pay the fine.


Wearing a helmet (or seat-belt) should always be a choice. Nobody but the person making the choice will bear consequences for it. If they value their safety more than their comfort, they will wear it. If not they won't. Nobody else is getting hurt except the person making the choice; as it should be. Forcing someone to wear a helmet, even for their own well-being, is tyrannical.


To quote a very general phrase that applies to every part of life: "The ends do not justify the means."


The end(goal) here being road safety, and the means(method) is imposing rights violating laws and fines. No freedom on how you wish to drive or what equipment you wish to use. This might sound like a good thing to you but it's not. This greatly reduces the efficiency of a capable driver who knows a better method than the proposed one. A person might be able to reach a destination much faster and much safer without these laws than if he was following those laws strictly. Another person might be a risk to other drivers even when following all the laws. It's a person-by-person scenario and a one shoe fits all approach doesn't work. What this does is that the best of the drivers suffer (in efficiency and comfort) while the less capable drivers will still keep making mistakes and putting lives at risk. Laws cannot make a person drive better.


Now the implementation of traffic laws, such as mandatory helmet and seat-belts, could be justified if the roads were a private property (which it is not), in which case the owner could dictate the conditions (in a contract) for you to use them and demand a fine when you break a rule (compensation for a breach of contract).


But roads (as of now) are public property i.e. they are paid for by tax rupees and hence are owned by everyone who pays taxes. Every taxpayer should have an equal say in what laws are to be imposed for using the roads. He has a right to it. To give one taxpayer or group precedence over another taxpayer or group is a gross injustice. Even if the favored group is a majority it is still being unfair to the minority. It is downright disrespectful of the government to not treat each taxpayer equally.


You cannot fine someone that does not agree with your laws but has to follow them. He payed his share of taxes but was unjustly denied any rights to how the taxes will be used. You cannot demand a compensation when he caused no harm to anyone or if he did not damage someone's property. That's theft/extortion. Helmet/seat-belt laws and fines regarding these fall into this category and thus are a violation of the taxpayer's rights. These laws should be abolished. Instead we see a rise in fine amounts for breaking them. A nice and easy way for them to generate revenue for the government but a serious violation of taxpayer's rights. And as a bonus, these fines never work. It is just a burden for the daily commuters, which they keep on increasing. It is just another way to extort money from an already heavily taxed citizen of this country.