The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill is a landmark amendment in many ways and will provide a much needed boost to road safety and integration of technology in India, as well as help weed out corruption from our transportation system.
Lack of discipline and the predisposition of road users to defy traffic rules is one of the main reasons why our roads are unsafe. Blatant defiance of laws such as riding without mandatory third-party motor insurance, not using seat belts or helmets are common violations that are not taken seriously in our country.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill aims to change that and increase discipline on Indian roads. Let’s understand how the government hopes to achieve that as well as meet the UN mandate to reduce road accidents by up to 50% by 2020.
With the understanding that people are more reluctant to part away with their money, the Bill has increased penalties and fines for all types of traffic violations. While in some violations penalties have been doubled, in most violations fines have been increased by 5 to 10 times.
For instance, if you drive a vehicle without licence, you will have to shell out Rs. 5,000 in fines. Earlier the penalty was only Rs. 500. Now not wearing a seat belt will invite a fine of Rs. 1,000 instead of Rs. 100 earlier. The amended Bill mandates a fine of Rs. 10,000 for drunk driving, up from Rs. 2,000 under the old law.
A new provision for penalty has been introduced for not giving way to emergency vehicles. It will invite a stiff penalty of Rs. 10,000. This is a commendable change and shows a humane face of the law.
The most common violation by two wheeler owners after riding without two wheeler insurance is riding without a helmet. The government is strict about this violation now, as the penalty has been increased 10 times to Rs. 1,000 and also includes the disqualification of license for 3 months. Also, the fines for plying without four wheeler insurance or two wheeler insurance have doubled to Rs. 2,000 per violation.
The Bill seeks to improve accountability when it comes to traffic violations, accidents and deaths or damage of public property. For instance, if a traffic violation or accident causing injury or death is committed by a juvenile, the owner of the vehicle will be held responsible. Also, the registration of the vehicle will be cancelled and the juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill also fixes accountability on contractors, consultants and civic agencies for damaged, ill-maintained and faulty road designs leading to accidents. Not all accidents are caused due to the fault of the driver and the amended Bill takes that into account as well. This is a new provision and authorities will also be held liable for injury and death caused by faulty roads and infrastructures.
Before the amendment, the Motor Vehicle Act had no authority to direct manufacturers to withdraw vehicles with defective and substandard parts, components and engine. With the amended Bill, the government now can recall vehicles that are considered defective by a high number of users or by an authorised testing agency. It means that vehicles with below standard safety features may also face the axe in the near future.
Getting a driving licence will be more difficult as the test and other processes will become more technology driven to weed out corruption. The existing licencing system is manual and there is a high likelihood of those with inadequate driving skills obtaining a licence. With the adoption of new technology and less human intervention in the process, it will be difficult for those without adequate driving skills to get a driving licence.
We should be hopeful that the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill will bring much-needed changes on our roads and rescue India from the dubious distinction of becoming the world leader in road deaths. The Bill is a step in the right direction but we feel that there must have been stricter fines and penalties for those plying without mandatory motor insurance. At least, the disqualification of licence for 3 months was in order. As only around 25-30% of vehicle owners have four wheeler insurance or two wheeler insurance in India, a stricter enforcement regime in this area would have helped increase that number greatly.
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