Motor Vehicles Act (Amendment) and Road Safety : According to statistics, a total of 5 lakh road accident cases were reported in the year 2015 across India, in which a total of 1.5 lakh people died. These statistics related to road accidents are quite serious, as it is clear from these that India loses some part of its useful human resource due to negligence every year. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 was recently enacted by the Central Government with an aim to make the road accident prevention regulations more stringent in India. There was widespread public reaction to the provisions of stringent pecuniary penalties for the violation of the rules under the Act (which came into effect from 1 September) and many states have also announced a reduction or reduction in the amount of the fine.
Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 was enacted from September 1, 2019 across the country. It is known that this Act was amended in the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. The Act contains very stringent provisions aimed at reducing road accidents.
Highlights of the Act
Compensation to victims of road accident
The Act increases the minimum compensation in cases of hit and run (1) from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2,00,000 in case of death and (2) from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000 in case of serious injuries. Also, the central government will develop a plan to provide cashless treatment to the victims of road accident during the ‘Golden Hour’.
The ‘golden hour’ is a one-hour time period after a fatal injury, with immediate medical care most likely to prevent death.
In this Act, it has been made mandatory for the Central Government to set up a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund to provide insurance cover to all Indian road users.
According to the Act, a Good Samaritan is a person who provides emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the time of an accident. The Act provides that even if the victim dies while assisting, the Good Samaritan will not be responsible for any action.
The Act allows the Central Government to order recall (withdrawal) of such motor vehicles in which there is a defect which may harm the environment or driver or road users.
Road safety board
The Act also provides for the constitution of a Road Safety Board, which will be constituted through a notification issued by the Central Government. The board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
Crime and punishment
The Act has increased the penalties for various offenses. For example, the maximum penalty for driving drunk on drugs or drugs has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. If the vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with the norms of manufacturing or maintaining motor vehicles, a maximum penalty of up to Rs 100 crore or imprisonment up to one year or both can be punished. If the contractor does not comply with the road design norms, he may have to pay a fine of up to one lakh rupees. Also, the Central Government can increase the penalty mentioned in the Act by 10 percent every year.
States’ reaction to the Act
Many states of the country have not seen positive response to the Act. Many states have decided to change the provisions of the Act accordingly. Gujarat has announced drastic cuts in fines, West Bengal has refused to implement this hefty economic penalty, Karnataka and Kerala are studying the possibility of making the provisions less stringent, while many other states are also on this side. Stepping up cautiously.
There are challenges before the new Act
- Unfortunately, the states which are at the top of the list of accidents are avoiding the implementation of this Act to serve their political interests.
- There is already a fund to pay compensation for hit and run cases, so the relevance of the new fund does not appear.
- The harsh economic penal provisions of this act have led many to believe that this will greatly increase corruption in the country.
- As per the provisions of the Act, the state governments will issue licenses to taxi drivers as per the central government guidelines, it is noteworthy that earlier state governments used to make such rules in their jurisdiction. In this type of situation, a collision between the state and the center can occur.
- States are also concerned about the diminishing of their powers due to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act.
Effects of Motor Vehicles Act
- After the enactment of this Act, it has become relatively difficult to violate traffic rules in the country and avoid them easily. It is known that earlier people were easily saved due to the flexibility of the rules.
- The Act provides for a fine of 10000 rupees for driving drunk or not giving way to an ambulance or fire brigade. It is expected that harsh economic penalties will reduce such cases.
- It provides for stringent rules for vehicle manufacturers, drivers and taxi drivers, which aim to change road users behavior and improve road safety.
- The Act provides that if a minor is found in violation of the rules, his parents will be held guilty. With this step, road accidents related to children will be prevented to a large extent.
- Flexibility of laws in India is a major challenge, which hinders their implementation. This Act will be an example for all laws to be enacted in future and will give a new direction to law making.
- After the enactment of the Act, statistics show that there has been an increase of 80.5 percent in the number of people in the capital of Delhi in the country with a seat belt.
Act Requirement – Road Safety Challenge
- Since the year 2000, the road network across the country has seen a total increase of 39 percent, while the number of registered vehicles in the country has increased by 158 percent in the same period. This indicates that the expansion of the road network in the country is very limited, while the number of vehicles has registered a significant increase, many fatalities have also been observed.
- The national highways of the country comprise only 2 percent of the road network, whereas a total of 28 percent road accident cases have been reported here.
- According to the report of the International Roads Organization, 12.5 lakh people die every year in road accidents worldwide and India accounts for more than 10 percent.
- The report on road accidents in India is released every year by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- About 1 lakh 46 thousand people died in India in the year 2017, about 4 lakh 60 thousand road accidents, which is the biggest loss of human resources of any country in the world.
- Two-wheeler drivers are the largest number of those killed in these accidents, most of them without helmets.
- Most victims of serious road accidents are people aged 18–45 years.
Overspeeding is the major cause of road accident
- Statistics from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways show that overspeeding was the main cause in 57 percent of the total 130868 cases of road accidents in 2016.
- Apart from this, the following reasons are also counted for road accidents:
- Driving using alcohol or drugs
- Do not use helmet
- Road ravages
- Poor road design and engineering
- Poor quality of materials and construction
Road safety efforts
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has taken several notable steps to improve road safety so far:
- The Ministry has outlined various policy measures under the National Road Safety Policy, including promotion of awareness, establishment of road safety information database, encouraging infrastructure for safe roads and enforcement of safety laws, etc.
- Constitution of National Road Safety Council as the apex body for taking policy decisions in matters of road safety.
- Two comic books named ‘Swachh Safar’ and ‘Safar Yatra’ have also been released with the aim of spreading awareness among children about road safety.
- Two apps named VAHAN and SARATHI have also been started so that corruption in issuing licenses and vehicle registration can be controlled.
- VAHAN – To operate vehicle registration service online
- SARATHI – Online portal for application for driving license
- Under the Sethu Bharatam program, all the national highways of India will be exempted from railway crossings by the year 2019.
- In 2015, considering road safety as a serious issue, India signed the Brasilia Declaration and pledged to halve road accidents and mortality.
What is Brasilia Declaration
- The Brasilia Declaration was signed at the Second Global High-Level Conference for Road Safety held in Brazil.
- The announcement aims to halve the number of global deaths and accidents from road accidents by the year 2020.
- The United Nations has also declared 2010-2020 as the decade of action for road safety.
Highlights of the Brasilia Declaration:
- All signing countries should formulate transport policies to use more sustainable means of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport.
- The following strategies can be adopted to ensure the safety of all road users:
- Improvements in laws and enforcement.
- Making roads safe through structural changes.
- Ensuring that life saving technology is available in all vehicles.
- Effective implementation of the amended Vehicle Act will definitely reduce the number of people who die from road accidents in the country.
- In the implementation of the Act, a situation of conflict between the Center and the State can arise, which can be resolved only through proper coordination between the two sides.
- State governments should ensure transparency in the implementation of the Act.
Vehicle manufacturers must adopt excellent technology and use all safety-related standards.
- Given the strictness of the Act, it should always be kept open for review and the views of all the parties should be heard in this context.
- There is a need to end the culture of impunity allowing government vehicles and privileged people (VIPs) to ignore the road rules which will motivate the common citizen to follow the road rules.
The present Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a strong initiative towards ensuring road safety in India, if it is implemented in the true sense, this Act can not only change the transport behavior by imposing harsh punishments, but It can also help create a sense of responsibility among citizens, resulting in controlling human resource losses from untimely deaths.
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