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Easy licences, deadly at the wheel

Time for overhaul: Experts want the state to emulate other countries and make procedure for getting a driver’s permit stricter

mumbai Updated: Mar 13, 2013 02:30 IST
Puja Changoiwala
Puja Changoiwala
Hindustan Times

An age proof, a residence proof, three copies of your photograph, a medical certificate and Rs. 35 — that is all you need to get your driver’s licence in Maharashtra.

Add this to the terrible condition of our roads, lack of traffic and road sense, flouting of norms, and it is a perfect recipe for a disaster.

In most other countries, obtaining a driving licence is a tedious and expensive process, and any violation can result in suspension. But, in Mumbai, the problem starts with the process of granting a driving licence.

Underage driving in Mumbai

According to government procedure, for private cars and motorcycles, a person has to be not less than 18 years and should first acquire a learner’s licence by submitting his age proof, residence proof, a medical certificate, copies of his photographs and a fees of Rs. 15.

Within six months of getting the learner’s licence, the candidate has to appear for a driving test and if he passes, a permanent licence will be issued. The fee for the test is Rs. 15 and it costs Rs. 20 to get a permanent license.

Experts feel that the procedure needs to be made stricter to reduce the number of accidents in the city.

Figures from the traffic police show that over 13,000 people died in accidents in the state in 2012. In Mumbai, more than 1,900 deaths were reported in the 4,000 accidents recorded in the same period.

“If you consider countries such as the UK, they conduct a written and practical test before granting a licence. In India, we just have a practical exam,” said Jitendra Gupta, member, Citizen Transport Committee.

“Also, according to the Motor Vehicles Act, the applicant has to have his eyes in perfect condition. But there is no mechanism for eye tests here, unlike in foreign countries,” he added.

Ashok Datar, a transport expert, said the test and licence fees should be hiked. “In Germany, they charge 100 Euros for a driving test. This is apart from the fees for issuing the learner’s and permanent licence,” said Datar, adding, “Vehicles can be used as weapons against pedestrians and other motorists and there is no reason why the licence to drive them should be easily available.”

Experts recommend that the state should look at places such as New York where a driver violation point systems is maintained. A computerised system automatically calculates the points every time a driver is convicted of a violation. Once the driver reaches the maximum limit, the licence may get revoked.

“The point system is also present in Hong Kong and there are very few traffic violations there,” said Allka Shah, member of a road safety advisory board to the Mumbai police. “If we can employ technology the right way like we did with the Aadhaar card, the number of road accidents can reduce.”

Gupta stressed on the need for making education a criterion to avail a licence. “Earlier, heavy vehicle drivers needed to have a minimum qualification of SSC, but that has been relaxed. So these people may be able to identify road signs, but can’t read them,” he said.

First Published: Mar 13, 2013 01:26 IST