Dealing with demon of road accidents

Road transport is known to be a neglected sector in India for long. Successive governments have been guilty of not paying much attention to the sector as a result of which the regional transport offices across the country have become dens of corruption.

Rampant graft in issuing of driving licences coupled with faulty designs in road construction have contributed a great deal to the increased number of fatalities and injuries caused by road accidents. No wonder, India has an unenviable record of ranking first in the number of road accidents in the world. In the light of this, the announcement made by Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari that the Motor Vehicles Act would be amended in the coming session of Parliament is a welcome step.

While the draft bill looks into nearly all areas of the transport sector, what is particularly noteworthy is the stiff fine to be imposed on those drivers drunk and driving: first offence would result in slapping of Rs 25,000 as fine, second offence within three years attracting a fine of Rs 50,000 or jail up to one year. Drunk and driving by school bus drivers would be dealt with a fine of Rs 50,000 and three years in jail. Vehicle manufacturers are not spared either as fines and jail terms are proposed on manufacturers for faulty design. Slapping a fine of Rs 5,000 for jumping signals is also proposed. Licence cancellation for a month and a compulsory refresher training would hopefully go a long way in curbing accidents in cities. Overloading of heavy vehicles under the new bill will also be addressed with the government planning to install electronic weighing bridges at toll booths. The minister has said the data for driving licences will be centralised with unified biometrics to check rampant misuse as often one person is found in possession of several licences. The minister has also promised that necessary amendments in two more Acts governing transport sector – Carriage by Roads Act and Road Transport Corporation Act – will be made.

What is striking is that there were 4.9 lakh road accidents in the country in 2013 with a death toll of 1.38 lakh. As many as 5.09 lakh persons were injured in road accidents during the year. Tamil Nadu recorded the highest number of road accidents (66,238) for any state while Delhi stood top in death due to road accidents with 1,820 persons killed in 7,566 accidents. Hopefully, the amended law will curb these needless deaths on the roads.

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