India brings stringent norms in motor bill to check road deaths

Proposed amendments in the law governing road safety are deficient and India needs stringent legislation to prevent over road accident deaths annually as well as to check incidents of road rage. 

The proposed norms, among other things, are silent on crucial points such as the safety of pedestrians, India Governments said. 

The Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill had been in the works for over a decade, and experts at a WHO sponsored workshop said that it should be passed in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament. The Bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha in May and needs to cleared by the Lower House. 

"The proposed amendment should take care of all aspects including road engineering and pedestrians safety... Road rages are more prominent in urban areas contrary to popular belief that backward regions of the country are less aware of the traffic rules," said G Gururaj, Professor and Head, Department of Epidemiology, NIMHANS, Bangalore. 

He said the legislation should incorporate provisions for post-accident care which is highly deficient in India. 

"Fifteen deaths occur on roads in India ever hour... Road accidents also account for 35 per cent of all unnatural death in the country, according to NCRB 2012 and WHO 2013 figures," NGO SaveLIFE Foundation's Piyush Tewari said. 

He said the proposed Bill does not cover "movement of pedestrians, bicycles and other non-motorised vehicles, road engineering standards, aspects of urban design and vehicle safety standard". 

As per the Road Transport and Highways Ministry data, India has the highest number of road accidents in the world, with more than one lakh people getting killed and another 4.5 lakh persons getting injured every year due to accidents. 

Vulnerable road users including pedestrians and children constitute up to 80 per cent of the total traffic fatalities and the socio-economic cost of road accidents has been estimated at 3 per cent of the GDP. 

Former Road Transport and Highways Minister C P Joshi had said that once the amendments are passed, the number of accidents would be minimised as the proposed law has stringent provisions for violators of traffic rules. 

As per new laws, traffic rule violators will have to cough up hefty penalties - almost 10 times more than now - for offences such as over-speeding and drunken driving. 

The present bill provides that rash driving is likely to attract a civil liability of up to Rs 5,000 in addition to punishment under the Indian Penal Code. Drunk driving will attract a penalty of Rs 5,000 and a two-year jail term. 

It also seeks to raise compensation for death resulting from a hit and run accident to Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 for the injured in such incidents. 

Framed in 1988, several provisions of the bill - especially those related to penalties for violations - have become completely ineffective in checking road accidents. The last time the MV Act was amended was in 2001.