Penalties alone no panacea

Road safety in a country with unregulated traffic like India will remain a pipe dream without a holistic approach to the problem

AuthorPublished: 7th Sep 2019  12:10 amUpdated: 7th Sep 2019  12:14 am

The amended Motor Vehicles Act, armed with hefty penalties for traffic violations, may serve as a deterrent for the violators but the desired impact on road safety cannot be achieved without concomitant improvement in the conditions of roads and traffic management. Several mishaps occur due to faulty road design and poor maintenance. According to the International Road Federation, around 1.5 lakh people die in India every year due to road accidents, accounting for 11% of the global fatalities. While steeper fines will help send a strong message to the road users, improvement in road infrastructure, adoption of modern technologies for effective traffic management and aggressive public awareness campaigns will go a long way in making our roads safer. The campaign must focus on road discipline, signages and proper use of footpaths. Another idea that needs to be explored is to make community service, like cleaning public spaces for specified hours, a mandatory punishment for certain categories of traffic violations. Such an approach was found to be effective in some countries. While 63 new clauses have been added to the amended MV Act that came into force on September 1, road safety in a country with unregulated traffic like India will remain a pipe dream without a holistic approach to the problem. Two new provisions — a penalty of Rs 10,000 and/or six-month jail term for blocking way for emergency vehicles and a fine of Rs 25,000 with a three-year imprisonment for guardians of juveniles who commit traffic offence — are welcome. The cases of underage drivers causing fatal crashes have been on the rise in the country.

Terrible road conditions, ramshackle vehicles, dangerous mix of vehicular traffic, untrained drivers and utter disregard for traffic rules make driving on Indian roads a nightmarish experience. Last year, over 54,000 people died in road accidents on national highways alone. A vast majority of the fatalities is caused due to overspeeding and violation of traffic rules. The laws governing transportation in the country are archaic and need a complete overhaul. A strong legislation with steeper penalties for violators is necessary to control the growing indiscipline on roads. However, stringent laws alone are not enough. The focus should be on effective implementation, sensitising traffic enforcement authorities about the new guidelines and, more importantly, ensuring total compliance from road users. Providing legal protection from civil and criminal liability to the Good Samaritans who come to the aid of road accident victims is an important feature of the amendments to the MV Act. This will go a long way in saving the lives of people involved in mishaps. The cashless system for treatment of road accident victims in the crucial golden hour at government expense is another long-felt need.


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