Make abiding by traffic rules your resolution for 2016. For, jumping a traffic light, talking on the phone while driving, speeding or driving drunk, violations considered “minor” by most, could lead to suspension of your driver’s licence for three months. Moreover, pillion riders on two-wheelers too will have to wear helmets, failing which they will have to undergo a mandatory two-hour counselling session, in addition to a penalty.
The rules, aimed at improving road safety in Maharashtra, which tops the list for road accident casualties in the country with more than 12,500 deaths a year, were announced by the state government on Friday and will come into effect immediately.
Those driving drunk, ferrying passengers in goods vehicles and exceeding load limits will also have their licences suspended on the spot. “The counselling session will also be mandatory for those driving without wearing a seatbelt,” said state transport minister Diwakar Raote.The government resolution (GR), dated December 31, 2015, orders the road transport offices and traffic police to ensure strict implementation of traffic rules from January 1 and submit an action taken report every three months.
While welcoming the new rules safety, activists and officials cautioned that implementing them will not be easy. “The plan sounds good, but unless the implementation is chalked out, it may not have the desired effect,” said Ashutosh Atray, a road safety expert.
Officials said barring Mumbai, no other city in Maharashtra follows the helmet rule. “Cities such as Pune, where there are a large number of two-wheelers, have objected to the idea in the past. Forget pillion riders, even those riding the two-wheelers don’t use a helmet there,” said another official from the transport department. According to sources, the decision has been taken based on the recommendations of the road safety council (RSC), in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines issued in August last year, at a meeting held at Nagpur on December 17.
“It is a welcome step, but there is no clarity on counselling. Who will counsel the offenders — police or RTO? Do they have a mechanism in place for it,” asked a senior RTO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Elaborating on the technicalities, a senior RTO official said a licensing authority such as RTO can revoke a driver’s licence or disqualify a driver, but they cannot suspend the licence without permission from the court.
Raote said the enforcing authorities plan stringent action against drivers caught driving under the influence of liquor or drugs. “We have directed the police to file a case in the court, along with suspension of driver’s licence. The authorities have been asked to seek imprisonment, even for first-time offenders,” the minister said.
He said the decision was part of the Road Safety Campaign 2016. Maharashtra accounts for more than 13% of road accidents in India.
RTO officials said barring drink driving and overloading, the penalty prescribed for other offences is not very high, so people think nothing of paying the amount and driving off.