India is infamous for featuring among the top countries with the highest number of fatal road accidents. According to government statistics, 1.5 lakh people end up losing their lives annually on our roads. The sad and alarming bit is that year after year, the number of fatalities related to road accidents isn't decreasing. This time around, our road safety record could change for good as the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016.
The new bill proposes to amend 68 out of the 223 sections in the current Motor Vehicle Act. In order to improve road safety, the new bill has proposed to increase the penalties levied for traffic violations. Some of the key changes proposed include increasing the fine for driving without license to Rs 5,000 from the current Rs 1,000. In case of speed limit violations, a fine of Rs 2,000 for medium passenger vehicles and Rs 1,000 for light motor vehicles has been proposed instead of the existing Rs 400.
If caught driving without a valid insurance, a penalty of Rs 2,000 has been proposed compared to the current Rs 1,000. Despite authorities trying their best to curb the menace of drunken driving, cases continue to be reported regularly. The new bill has proposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 for those caught driving under the influence of alcohol, up from the current Rs 2,000.
Across the cities in India, government authorities have been urging two-wheeler users to always wear a helmet while riding. The Maharashtra government has made helmet compulsory for the pillion rider. The Cuttack Police Commissionerate has implemented a 'no helmet, no fuel' rule in Cuttack. For riding a two-wheeler without a helmet, a penalty of Rs 1,000 along with cancellation of license for three months has been proposed. The current penalty is a measly Rs 100 which hardly acts as a deterrent.
We often find that some road users don't give way to emergency vehicles. The new bill has proposed a Rs 10,000 fine for those found guilty of not giving way to emergency vehicles. Another new amendment proposed is for offences committed by juveniles. In such cases, the accused will face trial under the Juvenile Justice Act and their guardian will also be deemed to be guilty. Additionally, the registration of the motor vehicle will be cancelled.
Some of the other key changes proposed include increasing the compensation given for hit-and-run cases to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 25,000. There's also a provision for giving a compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh for fatalities related to road accidents.
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has commented that the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016 passed by the Cabinet is the biggest reform in terms of road safety and in the transportation sector. He is hopeful that the Parliament will take up the amendments next week and has appealed all parties to support the bill.