Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019: Making Our Roads Safer

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari tabled the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 in Parliament some time back in an attempt to rejig the 30-year-old transportation laws in the country. The Bill aims to help India do away with the distinction of being the country with the world’s deadliest roads. The Bill has been passed by Parliament and has even got the President’s nod. It is just a step away from becoming a law. In fact, 63 clauses of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 would get implemented from 01 September 2019.

I remember when I was a kid, the very thought of being able to drive was very exciting. However, when I actually started to drive, things changed. I kept giving way to other drivers who seemed to be in a hurry. I just did not know how to deal with people overtaking my car from the wrong side even when I gave the indicator. To tell you the truth, I still do not know how to deal with such people. Whenever I drive, it seems to me like I am in a war zone where there is only one rule of driving – avoid or manoeuvre your way through traffic violators. If only everybody could follow the traffic rules, people like me can enjoy driving. In fact, it is for reasons like these that I was elated to see some progress on the archaic traffic rules.

There are many deaths every day due to road accidents, and it is not always the fault of the person driving. Sometimes, it is because of the recklessness of the other drivers, or faulty road designs, or even because of a lack of understanding about the importance of traffic rules. It is issues like these that the new Bill is addressing. The Bill has increased the fines and penalties for violations. Well, these may not necessarily curb the menace, but can still act as a deterrent to an extent.

There are some amendments that I would like to highlight because they seem to be promising. The Bill focuses on punishing those who do not give way to an ambulance. This may seem like common sense, but it is not uncommon to see ambulances stuck in traffic jams or trying to overtake some vehicles that seem to be in more hurry than the former. When humans forget the ‘human’ aspect of the world they live in, it is rules like these that can come to the rescue. I wish the government did not have to make a ‘rule’ for this and people just valued other people’s lives. However sad this situation may be, it is a reality and does require hand-holding.

Unlike a decade ago, roads these days are full of cabs like Ola and Uber. In fact, it is a common sight to find more cabs on the roads than private vehicles during peak hours. In spite of the cab aggregators claiming to have strict norms of selection for drivers along with comprehensive rating systems, many of their drivers drive very recklessly without any fear of the law. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 has taken a very good step of getting these cab aggregators under its ambit. This step can help make the errant cab drivers compliant.

I am also very happy with the new system of providing cashless treatment to the victims of road accidents during the golden hour, i.e., the first hour of injury or trauma. What makes this even more promising is the assurance that people who would come forward to help the road accident victims, would not get harassed at the hands of the police or hospital. Many times, people do not stop to help road accident casualties just for the fear of getting hassled. With the Bill amendments coming into force, this move could help save some lives that would have otherwise gone unattended.

As may be evident by now, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 takes a holistic view of road safety. In fact, it not only focuses on the drivers and their preparedness but also takes care of road contractors and automobile manufacturers. The former would be held responsible for faulty road engineering while the latter would be held responsible for faulty vehicle design that could potentially lead to accidents.

Needless to say, the amendments introduced by the government are a step in the right direction. After months of negotiations, the rules have been framed. The discussions are over. The analysis is done. Now, it is time for implementation.

As someone said, be creative while inventing ideas, but disciplined while implementing them. How the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019 is implemented will determine its success or failure. 01 September 2019 is not very far. We will know soon and hopefully, see some difference.

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About the Author: Shobhika Puri

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