The government is set to back a proposal to punish the parents of children who drive , a move aimed at curbing rising fatalities from the underage getting behind the wheel.
The plan is to amend the motor vehicles (MV) act to introduce a provision to charge the parents of juvenile drivers involved in crashes and send the errant minors to do community service. The road transport ministry is likely to discuss the proposal at a meeting of state transport secretaries on April 22.
“If a minor is involved, it will be presumed that the parents know and willingly allowed or influenced the child. So, they should be held accountable for allowing the minor to drive,” a source said on Wednesday.
The quantum of punishment for parents and the duration of community service for errant minors will be worked out after consulting the states, the source said.
“Since road transport is on the concurrent list, states will have to agree. If there is unanimity, a decision can be taken at the April 29 meeting of the empowered group of state transport ministers reviewing road safety.”
The government’s push for stricter road safety comes amid a growing call to make parents accountable after a Class 12 student in north Delhi’s upmarket Civil Lines mowed down a 33-year-old marketing consultant with his father’s Mercedes car on Sunday.
The father of the teen, who turned 18 four days after the accident, was charged with abetment to culpable homicide not amounting to murder but was granted bail. The Juvenile Justice Board rejected the boy’s bail, saying it should be a lesson for all parents who give cars to underage children as their bad parenting endangers lives of people.
Existing provisions under the MV act penalise the owner or person in charge of the vehicle for allowing an unauthorised person such as a minor or someone without a driver’s licence to drive. The offence carries a maximum fine of Rs 1,000 and jail for three months or both.
“In case the vehicle is registered in a company or somebody else’s name, it is difficult to hold the parents accountable. The law is silent on this aspect,” a ministry official said.
Cases of underage drivers causing fatal crashes are on the rise in India, where a person dies every four minutes in road accidents. But weak laws and slack enforcement often mean a long wait for justice for the victims and their families.
The government began considering amending the existing law because a draft bill on road transport and safety, pending for over two years, will take some more time before it is approved by the Union cabinet and introduced in Parliament.
The draft bill is set to replace the 26-year-old MV act that was amended in 2001. It proposes to increase the quantum of punishment based on the gravity of the offence: a Rs 1 lakh fine for driving an unregistered vehicle, and a Rs 3 lakh fine and seven years in jail for killing a child in a road accident.