How the new Motor Vehicles Act puts us on the road to safety

Livemint

NEW DELHI: In recent times, rarely would there have been changes in legislation touching each and every stage of life. Whether it is about making it mandatory for a child younger than four years, to wear a helmet, or making guardians responsible for a juvenile driving a vehicle, or increasing penalties manifold for offences such as drunk and dangerous driving, over-speeding, driving without permit, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 will impact everyone.

As far as road safety is concerned, discipline is imperative. If implemented in spirit, the law can change road habits of all by not only imposing stiffer penalties for breaking rules, but also trying to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the citizens to abide by them.

For instance, not giving way to emergency vehicles such as ambulance or fire brigade can now attract penalties of as high as ₹10,000.

A sharp increase in the vehicle population has increased the number of fatalities and injuries from road accidents. In 2017, there were more than 147,913 road-accident related deaths, up from 146,133 in 2014. Among categories of vehicles, two-wheelers accounted for almost 34% of total road accidents and 29% in terms of fatalities, official data showed. Besides, national highways that comprise 2% of India's total road network, accounted for over a third of accident-related deaths in 2017. The recent changes in the motor vehicles law could not have come at a more opportune time, with India being signatory to the Brasilia declaration on road safety and committing to halve the number of fatal road accidents by 2020.

After a long wait of three years, the Parliament earlier this month passed the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, after which it received the President's assent on 9 August.

The amendments in the 30-year-old motor vehicles law is much needed as India needs to keep up with innovation in technology and the automobile sector, amid rapid urbanization that is leading to road congestion in the cities.

Among other provisions, the law proposes cashless treatment for victims in the 'golden hour' or the first hour of fatal accidents when victims are most likely to be saved by medical treatment. Besides, citizens who come forward and rescue accident victims will not be harassed. Obtaining a driving licence (DL) will not be easy if a person lacks adequate skills as driving tests are expected to become technology-driven by reducing human interface to curb corruption.

Currently, the test of obtaining a driver's license is manual, with untrained people often managing to obtain a license. In addition, there are several cases of a single person having more than one or a fake driver's license. This in turn leads to more untrained drivers on the roads, resulting in a large number of road accidents, fatalities and severe injuries.

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