Fines are so low today, they don’t deter violators

Fines are so low today, they don’t deter violators

Several organisations have for long been demanding that the government make the Motor Vehicles Act more stringent and enforce it strictly to bring down the number of road accidents in the country.

Several organisations have for long been demanding that the government make the Motor Vehicles Act more stringent and enforce it strictly to bring down the number of road accidents in the country.

K K Kapila, President Emeritus of the International Road Federation (IRF), a global road safety body, has been one such voice. Kapila, who is also co-chairperson, FICCI Infrastructure Committee, tells DH’s Ajit Athrady that he is also a strong votary of hefty penalties on road traffic violators.

The Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 has not been able to bring down traffic offences and making our roads safer. Why do you think the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill will succeed in doing so?

It is important to pass the MV (Amendment) Bill into law because under the provisions in the existing MV Act, the penalty amounts are ridiculously low in today’s context. People do not seem to mind paying those fines and carrying on because those amounts are a pittance.

India tops the world in road accidents. How will the amended Bill help to curb road mishaps?

With increased penalties, you will find better adherence to road rules, which in turn will help to reduce road accidents.

Will the hefty penalties prescribed help curb traffic violations or will it lead to increase in bribery and corruption, with people preferring to bribe the traffic police and get away?

With increased use of technology, coupled with enhanced fines, we will soon be able to have e-Challans being sent to violators of traffic rules. The violations will be captured on camera and maintained as permanent records. This will ensure better observance of rules and therefore fewer accidents.

What do states have to do to reduce accidents?

The Motor Vehicle Act will be applicable throughout the country.

Many states have reservations over several provisions in the Bill. States have alleged that it encroaches on their domain and rights. Will they ensure its effective implementation? 

Yes, they will. When they find that its implementation is helping to reduce road accidents and fatalities, they will start to willingly implement the provisions.

Nearly 83% of road accidents involve valid driving licence holders. Will merely having enhanced penalties help reduce accidents or do licence holders need better training in driving?

We have had a very poor driving licence regime in this country, but with the increased use of technology, with little or no interface with the examiner and the entire test being recorded, we will have better trained drivers. As far as heavy motor vehicle drivers are concerned, they already have to undergo a test every two years. If someone is not fit to be a driver, he will have to get better training and come back to apply for renewal of licence. As such, over a period, we will have mostly properly trained drivers. This exercise of periodic re-examination must be extended to all motor vehicle drivers, including in the light motor vehicle category. Maybe they can be asked to take the test every 3-5 years.

The Bill proposes stringent punishment for faulty road design, engineering and maintenance. Is it possible to implement this and fix accountability of government officials and contractors?

It is possible to punish those responsible for poor road design, engineering and maintenance. The mere fact that such a provision of punishment exists will make all involved people more cautious and careful. And it is possible to fix accountability of government officials and contractors, too.