India has an urgent need for some relief from egregiously reckless drivers and to establish better road-related infrastructure that could prevent avoidable fatalities.
In this context, you would be glad to hear that according to data put out by various state governments, the number of fatalities in road accidents across the country have fallen by 5,000 from January to September 2017, compared to the same period last year. This is the steepest year-on-year decline in road fatalities ever.
As per data submitted to the Supreme Court-appointed panel on road safety, Punjab tops the list recording a 14.4% fall in road fatalities, followed by West Bengal with 13.7%. Maharashtra recorded the highest drop in road fatalities in absolute numbers with 807, followed by Gujarat at 775.
Delhi saw 119 fewer road fatalities in 2017 (January-September) from last year. These figures indicate that some states governments are expending greater time and effort in reducing road fatalities.
With the highest number of reported road-related fatalities in the world (one in ten), India has become the focus of international efforts at improving road safety.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, listed out steps that State governments should take to reduce road fatalities by 50% in the next three years. Of greater importance, however, is the Motor Vehicles (Amendments) Bill proposed by the government that is currently sitting in the Rajya Sabha. Lok Sabha has already passed the bill.
Reports indicate that the bill seeks to raise fines and penalties for traffic offences. For drivers caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the fine has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000, while rash driving will now attract a Rs 5,000 penalty from Rs 1,000 previously.
People found without a seatbelt can draw fines up to Rs 1,000 and for bikers riding without helmets, the fine is Rs 1,000, in addition to a three-month suspension of the offender’s licence.
It goes without saying that stricter and swifter imposition of penalties tends to have a deterrent effect to the extent that people fear breaking the rules because of the perception such practices create. Another important facet of this bill, among others, is the protection from harassment for good Samaritans who help accident victims.