Insights into Editorial: Making our roads safe
The process of introducing legislation for road safety has been in the making for the past four years. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017. If passed by the Rajya Sabha, it will be the first of its kind to extensively reform existing legislation on road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Amendment Bill is robust and rectifies several systemic issues by providing for a uniform driver licensing system, protection of children and vulnerable road users, rationalising penalties, and much more.
Main proposals in the Bill:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that for effective road safety management, it is imperative to have an institutionalised and sustainable data system. This includes information pertaining to drivers, such as types of licences held and a record of violation of traffic laws.
The driver licensing system in India controls and filters the number and quality of drivers on the road. The inefficiencies of a predominantly manual system, given the scale of licences issued every year, results in lakhs of licences being issued without the prescribed checks and balances.
It is believed that passage of the Bill would help meet the UN mandate to reduce road accidents up to 50 per cent by 2020.
- It makes Aadhaar mandatory for getting a driving licence and vehicle registration.
- For deaths in hit-and-run cases, the government will provide a compensation of Rs 2 lakh or more to the victim’s family. Currently, the amount is just Rs 25,000.
- In traffic violations by juveniles, the guardians or owner of the vehicle would be held responsible unless they prove the offence was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it.
- The registration of the motor vehicle in question will be cancelled. The juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.
- The bill has provision for protection of Good Samaritans. Those who come forward to help accident victims will be protected from civil or criminal liability. It will be optional for them to disclose their identity to the police or medical personnel.
- The minimum fine for drunk driving has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.
- The fine for rash driving has been increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.
- Driving without a licence will attract a minimum fine of Rs 5,000 as against Rs 500 at present.
- The fine for over-speeding will go up from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000-2,000.
- Not wearing seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100 at present.
- Talking on a mobile phone while driving will attract a fine of Rs 5,000, up from Rs 1,000.
- A Motor Vehicle Accident Fund will provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India for certain types of accidents.
- It will be mandatory to alter vehicles to make them suitable for specially abled people.
- Contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents.
- A time limit of six months has been specified for an application of compensation to the Claims Tribunal with regard to road accidents.
- The Bill removes the cap on liability for third-party insurance. The 2016 Bill had capped the maximum liability at Rs 10 lakh in case of death and Rs 5 lakh in case of grievous injury.
- The time limit for renewal of driving licence is increased from one month to one year before and after the expiry date.
- The government can recall vehicles whose components or engine do not meet the required standards. Manufacturers can be fined up to Rs 500 crore in case of sub-standard components or engine.
Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) Bill 2017 to change how India drives
Improvement is proposed in the areas of road safety, rural transport, last mile connectivity, public transport, automation, computerization, online services, passenger convenience, online learning licenses, and increasing validity period for driving licenses.
- Going digital
The Bill addresses several challenges by introducing technology in the licensing procedure.
A digitised, uniform and centralised driver licensing system will go a long way in ensuring ease of access, efficiency and transparency in the filtering process.
The Bill also proposes to introduce digitisation in the monitoring and enforcement of traffic laws.
Electronic monitoring and enforcement can already be seen in practice in Kerala. The State has a ‘city surveillance and traffic monitoring system’, and automated traffic enforcement systems to detect traffic light violations as well as speeding.
The enactment of the Bill will facilitate the replication and creation of such digitised systems for all other States.
- Good Samaritan guidelines:
It will help passer-by take appropriate action in helping the wounded in an accident.
- Children in focus
Since 2008, in India, over 55,000 children have lost their lives in road accidents. In 2016 alone, 7% of road crash deaths were attributed to children below 18 years.
The WHO asserts that using child-restraint systems in vehicles decreases the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and 54-80% for small children.
The Bill proposes to mandate the use of protective headgear by every person above the age of four driving, riding or being carried on a two-wheeler. It provides for measures to be laid down for the safety of children below the age of four.
For decades, penalties for behaviour that results in fatalities and grievous injuries have remained minimal, largely unrevised, and, consequently, have failed to deter violators.
This Bill promises to rationalise these fines. For instance, the penalty for drunk driving has been increased to ₹10,000 for the first offence and ₹15,000 for the subsequent one.
As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, India has committed to reducing, by 2020, the number of road crash fatalities and serious injuries by 50%. This will be impossible to achieve if the sole statute governing road safety in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is not overhauled.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will serve as the first and most essential step towards fulfilling this vision.