Roads To Nowhere

Amending the Motor Vehicles Act is the first step towards reducing accidents.

Written by Anu Aga | Updated: March 17, 2017 8:08 am
india road accidents, indian record, road accidents, road accidents record, indian accident fatalities, india accident rate, indian express editorial In 2015, 1,46,133 people were killed on our roads. Maharashtra, the state I represent, had the second highest number of accidents (63,805) and the third highest number of fatalities (13,212).

India has a dubious record of having the most road traffic accidents and fatalities in the world, barring China. There are over five lakh accidents every year. In 2015, 1,46,133 people were killed on our roads. Maharashtra, the state I represent, had the second highest number of accidents (63,805) and the third highest number of fatalities (13,212). These are staggering numbers. Road traffic accidents have no single cause. There is a myriad of contributing factors: Lacunae in road design, poor quality and maintenance, inadequate safety features in vehicles and dangerous driver behaviour. Undisciplined driving is itself a result of decades of weak enforcement.

Each of these feeds into the other, creating a deadly concoction. Rising income levels, heavy dependence on road transport (for intercity travel and freight movement), poor public transport and pedestrian infrastructure in cities have magnified these problems, resulting in this daily carnage.

The complexity of the issues and the multitude of agencies responsible for road safety has meant that it is easy to pass the buck. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 is a Central law, while the agencies for enforcement, the police and the RTOs, are state-controlled. The enforcement of basic laws, such as traffic violations, is resisted by the public and the police often face a backlash with no political support. Wider roads coupled with more powerful vehicles have increased reckless driving — very significant reasons for not only more accidents, but also more severe ones.

So, how do we stop this “massacre on the roads” and get these numbers moving downwards? The mantra has to be for each stakeholder to stop blaming the other and do what they need to do. Auto manufacturers need to meet global safety standards and not blame road quality or driver behaviour, the police need to enforce the law and not blame the RTO for granting licences without proper testing, the National Highways Authority of India and the various PWDs need to focus on better road design, and engineering, and cities need to aggressively improve public transport and non-motorised transport infrastructure and curb use of private vehicles.

Finally, vehicle operators need to follow traffic rules, wear helmets and seat belts and not blame corrupt officials or cite traffic congestion for their behaviour.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2017 is on the anvil and we, the parliamentarians, need to do what we ought to do — pass the bill and ensure that the right provisions for improving road safety become the law. Penal provisions need to be made stricter. Fines, currently set at 1988 levels, need to be revised to make them an effective deterrent. Petrol prices have increased 10-fold in this period; so, an increase of fines by five times is eminently justified.

Since speeding is a leading cause of accidents and deaths, limiting the speeds or acceleration capability of vehicles manufactured for use in India must be set by the law. Drunken driving is a serious offence and must be effectively stamped out. The government must consider allowing random sobriety tests and reducing allowable blood alcohol levels for young and novice drivers to 20 mg per 100 ml of blood. A scientific investigation of road crashes and criminal liability of officials and contractors found responsible for poor road quality is also essential.

Road traffic accidents spare no one, be they rich or poor, urban or rural, young or old, man or woman or of any caste or religion. We, the legislators, therefore, need to take tough decisions which are in the best interest of the country.

A tough law is not the end, but only the beginning of reforms that are needed to halve road traffic accidents by 2020, a commitment we have made by adopting the Brasilia Declaration for Road Safety.

The writer is former chairperson, Thermax Ltd, and a Rajya Sabha member

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  1. A
    Andy KKG
    Mar 17, 2017 at 2:30 am
    Footpaths should be cleared of vendors, electric poles, telephone exchange boxes and PARKED Cars;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Due to the above impediments, people start walking on the roads .. and the already narrow roads become narrower..
    1. A
      Mar 17, 2017 at 3:51 am
      20 ml level is very low, infact it should be increased to 50ml.
      1. A
        Anon coward
        Mar 18, 2017 at 12:03 am
        Show me the data.
        1. D
          Mar 17, 2017 at 9:21 am
          I posted my response in the morning today. Suggested some points but am waiting for moderation to get over.
          1. D
            Mar 17, 2017 at 10:35 am
            Most of us jump to conclusions about road deaths. Only those of us who have driven abroad are able to appreciate why so many road fatalities occur in our country. Collision between two vehicles moving in the same direction can, at best, cause non-life threatening injuries - not;br/gt;lt;br/gt;We DESPERATELY need to do two things (1) Mandate use of car seats for children (2) Implement that laws we already have on jay-walkinglt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Most killed are pedestrians. They should NOT be on the roads, particularly highways. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;As for speeding, anyone who has been on Indian roads can testify to the fact that speeding is not really possible due to mixed traffic. Overloaded trucks move at incredibly slow speeds. Some modern buses move faster, and weave in between them. And then, there's the;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The important thing to recongnise is that it is not the absolute speed, but the difference in speed between differing traffic which needs minimising. Perhpas a minimum speeds mandate (some reasonable number like 70 kph) should be put into place with a maximum speed;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Another important factor is quality of our Indian tyres. Roads have improved, tyres not so much. They overheat at speed, and are liable to blowouts with catastrophic after effects. Simply using a high quality tyre can make an immense contribution to road;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Third, we in India do not seem to be aware of the concept of tailgaiting, which can lead to crashes in the event that the vehicle ahead brakes in an emergency. That needs to be enforced, never;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Finally, stuff that is actually criminal should be enforced more vigorously. The alcohol limit should be ZERO for professional drivers. Again, part of jaywalking, please get the drunks walkers off the roads. Any experienced driver will tell you of the horrors of drunks walking along highways between 6 and 9 PM, barely;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Driving on the wrong side of a fast road is horrendously dangerous, and must be enforced by one-way-spikes. Fines do not seem deterent enough.
            1. J
              Mar 17, 2017 at 12:04 pm
              Add to it is that we need to reduce tyre pressure from say 32 to 26 when driving on express ways where you can consistently drive at higher speed which results in high temperature and high pressure.
              1. K
                k chandrasekaran
                Mar 17, 2017 at 7:40 am
                I share the opinion of Madam Anu Aga on road;br/gt;First drunken driving and overspeed driving can be checked by highway petrol effectively especially in Mumbai-PUNE roads. This is practiced already in Kerala roads by respective Traffic;br/gt;Also severe penalty to the extent of seizure of Driving Licence can be;br/gt;Additionally road maintenance, periodic inspection could be;br/gt;During Licence process itself, above needs to be initiated. Though Learner's licence involves test in regional language, this also requires to be enforced/made clear while individual gets their driving licence after appearing for their main;br/gt;Safety Displays are to;br/gt;One example of enforcement of road rules can be seen during visiting Tirupathi-Tirumala ghat road. There is a punching system which will exactly give information whether driver has taken normal or less time while reaching the destination. Less time in reaching is fined. This will alert driver while crossing their Toll;br/gt;Any way, safety is of paramount importance for individual and their family
                1. M
                  Mar 17, 2017 at 1:36 am
                  Can you believe it ? They have 'auto - cen*sored ordinary comments on this topic, four versions of my efforts gone to dust ??
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