Providing full 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 proposed to the Motor Vehicles Act. This is a welcome move and 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 measure that is now part of the bill passed by the Lok Sabha. Ensuring road safety should be an issue on which political parties across the spectrum can come together. The legislation should be cleared by the Rajya Sabha with bipartisan support. According to official figures, 1.3 million people were killed worldwide in road accidents in 2015 and of this India accounted for 1.46 lakh fatalities. Last year, over 54,000 people died in road accidents on national highways alone. A vast majority of the fatalities are caused due to overspeeding and violation of traffic rules. The reforms in the transport sector have been long overdue in the wake of rapid urbanization and a concomitant rise in vehicular traffic. The Bill proposes huge increases in various penalties for traffic violations, protection to Good Samaritans, the recall of defective vehicle parts by auto companies, holding builders accountable for poor quality of infrastructure and making vehicle owners criminally liable for violations committed by juvenile drivers.
Terrible road conditions, ramshackle vehicles, the dangerous mix of vehicular traffic, untrained drivers and utter disregard for traffic rules make driving on Indian roads a nightmarish experience. The laws governing transportation in the country are archaic and need a complete overhaul. A strong legislation that makes penalties for violators tougher is necessary to control the growing indiscipline on India’s roads. However, stringent laws alone are not enough. The focus should be on effective implementation, sensitising the traffic enforcement authorities about the new guidelines and, more importantly, ensuring total compliance from road users. According to an assessment done for the Supreme Court’s committee on road safety, Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest State, has just about 3,000 traffic cops against a requirement of over 48,000. Even in metros like Mumbai and Delhi, there is a huge shortage of traffic policemen. There is a need to strengthen the enforcement mechanism. The new legislation also recognises the need to adopt modern technologies and make the process of issuing driving licences and vehicle registration transparent to eliminate frauds. It provides for linking of driving licence and vehicle registration with Aadhaar-based platform. This would ensure integration of online services and also stop creation of duplicate licences. A national database of vehicles and driving licences is also proposed to help avoid malpractices.