Are Hefty new Traffic Fines going to Work?

By Ashwin Tombat
05 October 2019 02:15 IST

The amended Motor Vehicles Act 2019, which came into effect from 1 September, has drastically hiked penalties. These will further increase by 10 per cent every year on 1 April.

Ironically, though The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 was based on recommendations by the ‘Group of Transport Ministers of States’, a number of state governments – many ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have either diluted the law or put it on hold.

Neither Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah or Prime Minister Narendra Modi have spoken up in support of the law. Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Micro, Small and Medium Industries Nitin Gadkari is defending the new MV law all alone.

Gujarat, the home state of Mr Modi and Mr Shah, was the first to dilute the Act. It brought down the fines; in some cases by almost 90 per cent. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that his government did not want to harass people with hefty fines.

Among BJP-ruled states heading for elections this year, only Haryana has implemented the law. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has not implemented it. Neither has Jharkhand. In fact, a Jharkhandi minister said that the new MV Act is not in the interest of the people!

Other states are not going to the polls, but neither are they enthusiastic about the Act. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa has said he will follow the Gujarat model. Uttarakhand has done the same. Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Tripura have not implemented it.

Bihar, where the BJP is in alliance with the Janata Dal (United) of CM Nitish Kumar and the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, has “implemented” the amended MV Act. But collection of fines has been extremely low.

Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have put the new law on hold. Rajasthan has implemented it only partially. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has said her government will not implement it. Kerala and Odisha implemented the new MV Act at first, but after people protested, they put it on hold.

The Act has found enthusiastic support only from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has implemented the new MV Act without any reduction in fines.  

In Goa, Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho announced that the amended MV Act will be implemented from January next year. He said the government’s "moral responsibility" is to repair all pothole-ridden roads before charging heavy fines. The state government may also bring down fines.   

The question is, can hefty fines actually reduce road accidents and save lives? Or will they only increase bribery? Hefty fines are much harder on those who cannot afford to pay the amount.

According to the Union Ministry of Transport, there were 4.64 lakh road accidents in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available. This means over 52 accidents happened every hour – nearly one each minute. Most accidents involved two-wheelers (34 per cent). Cars, jeeps and taxis accounted for 25 per cent. Trucks, around 20 per cent.

Over 30 per cent took place on National Highways, causing 36 per cent of deaths. State Highways claimed 25 per cent of accidents and 27 per cent of deaths. Residential, institutional and commercial areas accounted for only 38 per cent of accidents.

Around 64 per cent of road accidents took place on straight roads. Just 12 per cent happened on curves and a mere 2 per cent were caused by potholes.

It seems clear that the main cause of road accidents is over-speeding. Around 70 per cent of accidents in 2017 were from over-speeding, 6 per cent from driving on the wrong side of the road and just 3 per cent from drunken driving.

Yet, the penalty for over-speeding is at Rs1,000 to Rs2,000, while for driving without a license or registration, it is Rs5,000…!

Going after statutory requirements like driving license, RC book and PUC certificate is not going to reduce accidents or deaths. The authorities need to specifically target over-speeding, and penalise it severely.

Sadly, in Goa, the traffic police exclusively target areas with unrealistically low speed limits (30 to 40kmph) – like bridges – to punish ‘over-speeding’. Does this really reduce accidents and save lives, or merely help to fill coffers, both public and private?

 

 

Better training and testing for driving licenses, more effective regulation of driving schools, and creating an all-India ‘Driver’s Manual’ that explains the rules and regulations simply in all official languages should be a priority.

 

Road Infrastructure must meet legal requirements if fines are to be justified. Condition of roads, traffic signals, signage and cautionary markings must conform to standards. Road discipline cannot be a one-way street.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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