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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Some finessing may be required, but there must be no reversal of the amended Motor Vehicles Act

In the interest of ensuring maximum compliance, the Centre should engage the states, especially those who have reservations about the quantum of fines. Some finessing is required but the bottom-line is that the amended Act Act has to stay on track along with pursuing other reforms.

editorials Updated: Sep 12, 2019 19:28 IST

Hindustan Times
The number of people who died in road accidents in 2018 was 1.5 lakh, with many survivors suffering horrific injuries
The number of people who died in road accidents in 2018 was 1.5 lakh, with many survivors suffering horrific injuries(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
         

The sharp increase in fines for traffic violations in the recently-amended Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) has led to a backlash, but considering that India has the highest number of road fatalities in the world, the rationale of the fines and stricter enforcement is sound. The number of people who died in accidents in 2018 was 1.5 lakh, with many survivors suffering injuries. At least 50% of deaths are of those in the age group of 14-35 years, which often means that he or she is likely to be the primary breadwinner in the family. Road fatalities happen due to many reasons. But take one such issue: Speeding. This entirely avoidable problem was responsible for 66% of accidents last year. Stiff fines, along with strict implementation, can change road habits.

Some states have argued that the fines are disproportionately high. Perhaps, the fines for certain compoundable offences, where you pay the penalty on the spot, in cases where rules have been violated but no damage has been done, could be reduced. This also falls within the mandate of the state governments. But blanket reductions, as proposed by Gujarat, or simply delaying implementation, as in the case of Maharashtra, or not cooperating, as is the case of West Bengal, do not help. In offences like drink driving or underage driving, no quarter can be given because these put lives in danger. The problem also is implementation. Very often, vehicles owned by the politically powerful or connected violate norms. The police are too frightened to bring such people to book. In other cases, local police officials themselves may be corrupt, seek bribes. This requires systemic overhaul, and the aim has to be certainty of punishment.

In the interest of compliance, the Centre should engage with the states, especially those that have reservations about the quantum of fines. Some finessing is required, but the amended Act has to stay. This should be accompanied with other reforms from upgrading roads, eliminating corruption in the licensing system to inducing behavioural change across the board.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 18:57 IST