Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 Passed

Why is it in News?

  • On 9th August, 2019, the President gave assent to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019, in an attempt to regulate and improve road safety across the country.
  • The new act replaces the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

Aim:

  • It aims to make Indian roads safer, reduce corruption and use technology to overhaul the country's transportation system.

Need for the Amendment:

  • According to the road transport and highways ministry,maximum road accidents in the world occurred in India. Nearly half a million accidents are reported in India every year resulting in loss of precious lives.

Salient Features of the Act:

  • National Transportation Policy: It empowers the government to develop a National Transportation Policy, for establishing a framework for grant of transport permits. The Policy will help:
  • Establishing a planning framework for road transport
  • Developing a framework for grant of permits
  • Specifying priorities for the transport system, among other things.
  • Road Safety Board: It provides for creation of Road Safety Board for advising on matters relating to road safety.
  • National Register of Driving License: It will comprise licence data from through out the country to make transfer of vehicles across states easier and weed out fake DLs.
  • Hit and Run Scheme: The compensation payable for victims in 'hit and run' out of the scheme fund under Section 161 has been raised to Rs. 2 lakhs in case of death, and Rs. 50,000/- in case of bodily injury, from Rs.25,000 and Rs.12,500 respectively.
  • Manufacturer to Recall Defective Vehicles: It enables Central Government to issue directions to manufacture to recall vehicle or components in cases of defects reported by such percentage of users as notified, or by any testing agency or by any other source.
  • Liability of Contractor in Case of Faulty Road Design: It imposes liability on contractor, concessionaire or designated authority when their failure to follow prescribed design and standards results in death or injury.
  • Liability of Guardians in Case of Accidents by Juveniles: It imposes liability on guardian or the owner of the vehicle responsible for an accident caused by a juvenile, with a fine of Rs 25,000 with 3 years of imprisonment
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Fund: The Fund is to be utilized for giving immediate relief to victims of motor accidents, and also hit and run cases. The compensation paid out of the fund shall be deductible from the compensation which the victim may get in future from the Tribunal.
  • Power of Central Government to Frame Schemes for Inter-State Permits: As per the present Act, the power to make scheme for inter-state transportation of goods or passengers is an exclusive domain of the states. The new actempowers the Central Government to make schemes for national, multi-modal and inter-state transportation of goods or passengers. Further, in the event of any conflict between the schemes made by the Central Government and schemes made by two or more States, the schemes made by Central Government will prevail.
  • Protection of Good Samaritans: It makes provision for protection of Good Samaritans from unnecessary trouble or harassment from civil or criminal proceedings and empowers Central Government to frame Rules for their protections.

Significance:

  • It is an effort to overhaul the country’s transportation laws by addressing crucial issues such as road safety, reducing deaths due to road accidents, imposing stiffer penalties on violation of rules, and weeding out corruption, thereby transforming India’s road transport system.
  • It will help the government to meet its international commitments under the Brasilia Declaration of 2015(under which the government intends to reduce traffic fatalities by 50% by 2020)and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.6).

Hurdles to Road Safety in India:

  • Civilians Irresponsibility and Negligence Attitude:Its only human factor that contribute significantly to increasing number of road accidents in India. Drunken driving is one of the major reasons causing road traffic accidents largely among commercial vehicle drivers on highways. Reckless, over speeding, absence of seats belts, use of mobile phone increases the chance of fatal injuries for car occupants from near zero to almost 100%.
  • Awful Condition of Roads:Another reason for road accidents in India is pathetic conditions of the road. Most of them have potholes, without road signs or under construction for a long period. All these lead to road accidents. Roads are built without giving much consideration to its functionality.
  • Vehicle Design below International Standard:Indian vehicles design as well as safety normsdo not match up to the International Standards, leading to increasing number of road related casualties.
  • Improper Implementation of Road Safety Standards:Mostly Indian road are not well informed with the markings and signals.Most of the primary and secondary traffic signals are either not functioning as per the prescribed standards or wrongly installed. Road barriers and other related equipments are seen dwindling here and there on the roads. According to a study by Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) in Delhi, about 75% of road signs did not meet requirements under the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) Code and the insertion of a regulatory or warning sign with another colour board
  • Lack of Emergency Services:Indian roads lack any provision for emergency services. In case of an accident there is no provision for first aid treatment near the intersections. Victims have to cost their lives as due to unavailability of doctors and hospitals nearby.

Government Initiatives Towards Road Safety

 National Road Safety Policy(2017)

  • It outlines various policy measures such as promoting awareness, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport, enforcement of safety laws trauma care etc.

 National Road safety Council

  • The Government has constituted the National Road Safety Council as the apex body to take policy decisions in matters of road safety.

 4 ‘E’s Strategy:

  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highway (MoRTH) has formulated a multi-pronged strategy to address the issue of road safety based on 4 ‘E’s viz.Education, Engineering (both of roads and vehicles), Enforcement and Emergency Care. Based on this, a draft action plan has been shared with the states.

 30th National Road Safety Week(4th – 10th February-2019):

  • In February, 2019, 30th National Road Safety Week was observed.A host of initiatives were launched on this occasion, aimed at generating awareness and sensitizing people about safe road usage.
  • SurakshaYatra - a motor car rally from Rajghat in New Delhi was flagged off to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The flag off was also part of an event to launch the 30th National Road Safety.
  • Dash Board for Road Accident Data of India and States: This will be available on the website of the Road Ministry. People can access road accident related data and other information from this Dash Board.
  • Swachha Safar and SurakshitYatra: It is a set of comic books on road safety produced by Uber and Amar Chitra Katha were also released on this These comic books are aimed at creating awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to.
  • iSafe Campaign: The Safer India(ISafe) Challenge, 2019, is a 9 month long championship held annually, with the aim to reduce the deaths caused due to road accidents to half by 2020. It is an initiative of Indian Road Safety Campaign and MoRTH, held for colleges all across India.iSAFE aims to spread awareness among the youth and at the same time make use of them as a resource to create awareness among the nation.

 National Highway Accident Relief Service Scheme:

  • Under this scheme, state governments are provided cranes and ambulances and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) also provides ambulances at a distance of every 50 km on its completed stretches.

Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, 2015

  • The Brasilia Declaration which was hosted by Brazil in November 2015 in Brasilia, Brazil, also co-sponsored by WHO, is a call to rethink transport policies in order to advice more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and using public transport.
  • It underline strategies to secure the safety of all road users, specially by improving laws and administration; making roads safer through infrastructural modifications; making sure that vehicles are equipped with life-saving technologies; and strengthening emergency trauma care systems.
  • It encourages WHO and partners to smooth the way for the development of targets to lower road casualties, and keep up with the definition and use of indicators linked to the SDG targets related to road safety.

Vision Zero

  • Started in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic.
  • It is an approach wherein responsibility for transport safety is shared between individual transport system users and system designers (the entities that shape the system, such as the automotive industry, lawmakers and infrastructure owners).

Way Forward:

  • Road safety is an issue that requires a multi-pronged solution. Recognition of road safety as the joint responsibilityof decision makers and road users, coupled with political action and legislative reform at all levels of government will be essential to bring about long-term improvement.
  • Such changes, accompanied by increased participation from the civil society and private players can push India to achieve its target of 50 percent reduction in road traffic fatalities in the foreseeable future.
  • Time is ripe to rethink our strategies to overcomechallenges and focus on creating a road safety revolutionin the country. There is a need for political commitmentlike ‘Swacch Bharat’ to ensure this road safety revolutiontowards a ‘Suraksha Bharat’.

 

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, 8th August, 2019