It is high time unruly and dangerours drivers were reined in. More than five lakh road accidents take place in India every year claiming close to 1.5 lakh lives. That is why the Lok Sabha’s approval of the modifications to the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which includes a slew of tough measures against violators, is a radical departure for the better from the 30-year-old law that governs traffic in the country.
One of the highlights of the new bill is heftier penalties . Those in the habit of driving rashly should be prepared to pay as much as 20 times more than before. Driving without a licence will invite a fine of Rs 5,000: the fine for the offence was Rs 500 earlier. Driving with a licence that has been deemed disqualified can make you poorer by Rs 10,000 , the fine rising from Rs 500. Another significant proposal is a prison term for callous custodians. If a vehicle is registered in the parent’s name and a minor causes a fatal accident while driving it, the parent could go to jail for a maximum term of three years. This should discourage the culture of underage drivers causing mishaps while speeding or carrying out stunts.
A strong legislation that makes penalties for violators tougher was required to control the growing indiscipline on India’s roads, particularly in big cities.As many as 1,48,707 people were killed and 4,82,389 were injured in more than 4,64,674 accidents on Indian roads in 2015. The lack of awareness about the consequences of letting their children drive is common in many urban households. Instead of checking the menace, some parents take pride in letting their children drive young. And the offenders are getting younger every passing year. According to government data, the Delhi Police fined 225 juveniles for underage driving in 2015 alone. The menace of drink driving is even more widespread. In 2015, the police prosecuted 5,523 people in the Capital for driving under the influence. The proposal to penalise drink driving with a Rs 10,000-!5,000 fine, is , therefore, welcome.
Under the new bill, .compensation for hit-and-run cases will increase from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 lakh and for fatal road accidents, up to Rs 10 lakh. Also, it proposes the creation of a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that would extend a compulsory insurance cover to all road users for certain kinds of accidents and the protection of good Samaritans from civil or criminal action.
To facilitate the delivery of services to stakeholders, says the bill, the government will lean heavily on e-governance. This includes enabling online learners’ licences, increasing the validity period for drivers’ licences and doing away with the norms of educational qualifications for licences. But this can have a flip side.
One of the biggest speed-bumps for the BJP government before it realises the objective of reducing fatalities by 50% in five years is ensuring that only those with requisite expertise get a licence to drive. Although the fear of heftier fines is a step in the right direction, only airtight implementation can ensure that wayward drivers don’t get away by greasing the palms of authorities at various levels.