In the wake of the rise in road accidents in the city, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who also holds a portfolio in the transport department, has advocated stringent action including imprisonment, for those found driving without a licence.
Chavan said that driving without a licence was as dangerous as a juvenile handling a loaded gun. He added that there was an urgent need to change rules and laws pertaining to driving without a licence. Currently, there is provision for a fine of Rs. 750 (Rs. 350 for the driver and Rs. 400 for the owner), but no imprisonment. In the last six months, the city witnessed three cases in which teenagers behind the wheel caused accidents.
Besides making the procedure to obtain licences stricter, the CM also ordered transport department officials to collate suggestions from reports by various road safety committees and send him a proposal within a month. “A joint committee of the transport and home department will be set up to make a decision on other suggestions that are harder to implement,” said Chavan.
While inaugurating the 23rd ‘Road Safety Week’, organised jointly by the transport department, the Mumbai traffic police and Western India Automobile Association (WIAA), the CM appealed to political leaders to take up initiatives to ensure that those riding two-wheelers wear helmets, especially in cities like Pune. He also suggested that transport authorities publish names of drunk drivers on their websites as well as in newspapers.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who met with an accident on the bridge over the Vashi creek last year, raised concerns about expressway accidents, like the one in which two Marathi actors lost their lives last month. Patil also said that the government would provide funds to build new test tracks at both existing and new regional transport offices (RTO) in the state.
State cabinet minister for rural development and guardian minister of Mumbai, Jayant Patil criticised the procedure for obtaining driving licences. “Often people don’t take the driving test seriously,” he said.
Home minister RR Patil said that despite 41,000 driving licenses being cancelled and cases filed against 45,000 in the last few years for drink driving, traffic police had still managed to book 845 people on the night of December 31.
SK Sharma, transport secretary, added that in the next three years new driving test tracks would be developed in every district of the state. He also said that state-of-the-art vehicle fitness checking facilities would be made available in all five revenue divisions in the state.