Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Put the brakes on road accidents


Tougher penalties in the new Act could lessen underage and drink driving

It is high time dangerous drivers were reined in. More than five lakh road accidents take place in India every year claiming close to 1.5 lakh lives. That is why the Lok Sabha’s approval of amendments to the Motor Vehicle Bill, 2016, which includes a slew of tough measures against violators, is a radical departure for the better from the 30-year-old law that governs traffic in the country. One of the highlights of the new bill is heftier penalties . Those in the habit of driving rashly should be prepared to pay as much as 20 times more than before. Driving without a licence will invite a fine of ₹5,000; the fine was ₹500 earlier. Driving with a licence that has been deemed disqualifi­ed can make you poorer by ₹10,000 , the fine rising from ₹500. Another significan­t proposal is a prison term for callous custodians. If a vehicle is registered in the parent’s name and a minor causes a fatal accident while driving it, the parent could go to jail for a maximum term of three years. This should discourage the culture of underage drivers causing mishaps while speeding or carrying out stunts.

A strong legislatio­n that makes penalties for violators tougher was required to control the growing indiscipli­ne on India’s roads, particular­ly in big cities. As many as 1,48,707 people were killed and 4,82,389 were injured in more than 4,64,674 accidents on Indian roads in 2015. The lack of awareness about the consequenc­es of letting their children drive is common in many urban households. And the offenders are getting younger every passing year. According to government data, the Delhi Police fined 225 juveniles for underage driving in 2015 alone. The menace of drink driving is even more widespread. In 2015, the police prosecuted 5,523 people in the Capital for driving under the influence. The proposal to penalise drink driving with a ₹10,000-₹5,000 fine, is , therefore, welcome. Under the new bill, compensati­on for hit-and-run cases will increase from ₹25,000 to ₹2 lakh and for fatal road accidents, up to ₹10 lakh. Also, it proposes the creation of a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that would extend a compulsory insurance cover to all road users for certain kinds of accidents and the protection of good Samaritans from civil or criminal action.

One of the biggest speed-bumps for the BJP government before it realises the objective of reducing fatalities by 50% in five years is ensuring that only those with requisite expertise get a licence to drive. Although the fear of heftier fines is a step in the right direction, only airtight implementa­tion can ensure that wayward drivers don’t get away by greasing the palms of authoritie­s at various levels.

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