The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill (MVB) that was passed by the Lok Sabha is huge move forward in tackling the traffic hazards all over the country. This means that stricter provision will be introduced to increase the level of road safety and ensure stronger punitive measures against traffic violators, says traffic and road safety experts.
The MVB is considered as an important step towards strengthening the legal framework for improving road safety in India where the country’s roads witness over 5 lakh road accidents each year resulting in 1.46 lakh fatalities. The new penalty provisions encompass offences such as juvenile driving, drunken driving, over-speeding and over-loading. Even driving without a helmet for bikers will also have a heavier penalty.
At round table discussion on 9th June in Mumbai as part of a 3-day seminar where experts of road and transportation came together from across the world to understand and suggest the various changes that the city should undertake in order to improve city travel.
“Strengthening the provisions for regulating road users’ behaviors will contribute to the reduction of road traffic deaths and injuries in India”, said David Cliff, CEO of the Global Road Safety Partnership, while focusing on the specific issue of ‘bad infrastructure vs bad driver’.
Various experts said that the MVB will close major gaps in the legislative framework that governs road safety like introducing the Good Samaritan guidelines to help road accident victims, a proposal to create a National Register for Driving License and a National Register for Vehicle registration to smoothen the licensing and registration process and prescribing standards for road design and penalties for non-compliance which will hit the technical issues persisting the system.
Measures have also been undertaken to tackle road safety state wise. In 2014, due to a Public Interest Litigation, the Supreme Court of India appointed a 3-member committee to measure and monitor the implementation of road safety laws in the country. This committee has issued several directions during the last two years to all the states to make the necessary amendments in their respective state Motor Vehicle Rules.
Ranjit Gadgil, a member of the Parisar organization and the moderator of the round table discussion, said that Maharashtra was one of the better states which has started working on its road safety laws. Five problems have been identified to work towards:-
• Poor driver skills
The system of acquiring a driving license needs to undergo an extensive level of transformation. Also, computerisation and improvement in the format of driving test would be beneficial.
• Fitness of Vehicles
Jessica Truong of the Global New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and a guest at the round table discussion, emphasised on the model of the car playing a major role and has even previously stated that people should become more aware of the safety ratings of cars. Safety ratings of cars are to do with the various vehicle safety technologies added to these automobiles.
Police enforcement can help reduce the number of violations. The Government must invest in automated enforcement to increase the level of efficiency in catching and penalising violators.
• Road Design
Smarter and more efficient roads must be built. Maintenance of the roads in the city is one of the major issues faced by the commuters. Facilities for pedestrians must also be improved from the quality of footpaths to making strict rules for pedestrian signals.
• Lack of Awareness
More awareness campaigns need to be undertaken to inculcate traffic discipline and civic sense.
“This is the first step in the battle of road safety” said Dr Soames Job of the World Bank and a Global Road Safety Lead and believes that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the State Governments need to develop a joint strategy and implement a time-bound action plan to achieve the main goal.
The next step in the legislative process is the passage of the amended Bill in the Rajya Sabha during the upcoming August session. Also, as a signatory of the Brasilia Declaration, this would be a huge step forward for India in working towards its commitments to halving the fatalities and injuries in the country by 2020.