Stung by rising fatalities on national highways and a spike in road accidents in major cities, the government is now planning to introduce strong punitive measures through a new legislation and amendments in existing laws.
A National Road Safety and Traffic Management Bill is likely to be placed before Parliament in the coming session. Once enacted, it would pave the way for setting up national- and state-level road safety boards.
These boards would be empowered to regulate traffic management systems on roads and highways and impose strict penalties.
“The Prime Minister has desired that the Bill be expedited in view of the high rate of road accidents. He also expressed concern about the status of public transport, especially Blue Line buses in Delhi,” said a government official who did not wish to be identified.
The national road safety board would have powers to impose hefty fines on automobile manufacturers and road construction companies if laid down safety standards are not adhered to.
The Bill states that “whoever fails to comply with the regulations shall be punishable by the national board with fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh.”
Besides, the government is planning to introduce major amendments in the Motors Vehicles Act in the coming session that calls for stringent penalties.
The amendment Bill, which was first introduced in Parliament last year, would ensure that in case of death in a road accident, an interim compensation of Rs 1,00,000 is paid to the victim’s next-of-kin within three months, and Rs 50,000 in case of permanent partial disablement.
The amendments would also empower the appropriate authorities to suspend, on the spot, the driving licence of a drunken driver for a period of up to three months. Rash drivers would be fined Rs 5,000.
A Planning Commission Working Group had assessed the social cost of road accidents in India at Rs 55,000 crore at 1999-2000 prices.
A committee on road safety and traffic management, headed by S.Sundar, Senior Fellow, TERI and former surface transport secretary has recommended major changes in current norms and guidelines. “Existing institutions are not fully equipped to deal with the increasing traffic on the roads. Responsibility for road safety is diffused...,” it said in its report submitted last year.