India needs the certainty and severity of penalties to curb road fatalities
One deterrent for offenders could be the passage of the Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) Bill 2017, which proposes stiff penalties for common violationseditorials Updated: Mar 20, 2018 09:02 IST
On Saturday night, three young doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were killed on the Yamuna Expressway when their sports utility vehicle crashed into a truck carrying protruding metal rods. Although the expressway is notorious for its record on fatalities – with a reported 100 deaths every year since it opened in 2012 – road accidents in India are not limited to this stretch alone. In 2016, according to the Union ministry of road transport and highways, 150,785 deaths were reported in India owing to road mishaps. More than a decade ago, in 2006, we surpassed China as the country with the highest annual number of road crashes in the world. Road mishaps cause an economic loss of Rs 4.07 lakh crore every year to India’s economy, says the World Bank.
One way to make our roads safer would be to strictly implement traffic norms with zero tolerance for violators. But this doesn’t seem to be a priority with either the police or the administration. A good deterrent for offenders could be the passage of the Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) Bill 2017, which proposes stiff penalties for routine violations. Awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod since last year, one of its proposals is to raise the fine for drink driving from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. Similarly, it proposes raising the fine for rash driving from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Another recommendation is a three-year jail for parents of minor drivers who have caused fatal accidents.
Although the Act has a number of tough recommendations, it is surprisingly silent on deaths caused by overloaded or badly loaded vehicles. According to a report by the ministry of road transport and highways, overloaded and badly loaded trucks kill 100 people every day on India’s roads. Overloading of trucks makes them tough to control, leading to accidents. Similarly, trucks with protruding loads – such as those that killed the doctors from AIIMS – are a common sight on our roads. In 2012, according to the ministry of road transport and highways, as many as 9,100 people died and at least 29,500 were injured in accidents caused by such protrusions. In 2014, the government deleted the provision in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules that allowed protrusions up to one metre and banned vehicles from carrying rods, pipes or any material extending beyond the body frame. Despite this, lax implementation by the police and the collusion of transport officials, who let offenders without documentation get away with murder, means that 17 people lose their lives in road accidents in India every hour. Since 2014, the BJP government has been promising the introduction of a law to replace the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. It is time the Opposition and the party in power put their differences aside to enact a legislation that assures the certainty and severity of punishment. Consider this: Every four minutes we delay acting on this, one more person will die on the country’s roads.