Traffic discipline not possible without omnipresence of road law enforcers
The enforcement of a higher penalty regime for traffic violations across the country is expected to be a greater deterrent to violators. The Goa transport department is going to enforce the regime from next week after Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations are over. The new regime flows from amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act aimed at tightening discipline among motorists with a view to bringing down the number of accidents that result in loss of thousands of human lives across the country every year. The government is going to enforce heavier punishment as low fines and lighter penalty have not brought about significant change in the behaviour of drivers of commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses and private vehicles such as cars and scooters and motorcycles. Not wearing seat belt, drunk and dangerous driving, over-speeding, jumping of red lights and driving without insurance and overloading of vehicles will now attract ten times higher penalties. A new section, Section 199A, has been introduced in the Motor Vehicles Act under which if a juvenile is caught driving a vehicle, his or her guardians and the owner of the vehicle will be deemed guilty and will have to pay a steep fine of Rs 25,000 and undergo imprisonment extending up to three years. Besides, the registration of the vehicle will also be cancelled.
We hope the new penalties would instill fear in the minds of both habitual and casual violators. There is, however, some ambiguity in the amendments. Some state governments have decided to issue separate notifications, over and above the central government’s one, to make the provisions clearer for application. For instance, the Delhi government’s view is that since heavy penalties have been prescribed, the compounding notification would have to be issued with wider consultations with traffic police and other stakeholders. The Maharashtra government thinks the new penalty structure cannot be enforced until the state issued a notification for enforcing it. However, the Goa government’s view is that there is no need for the state to frame its own rules or issue a separate notification on the implementation of amendments to the MVA.
The number of road accidents has not come down significantly over the past six years, though both the central government and the state government had declared their commitment to it. Nearly 300 persons on an average die in accidents every year in Goa, and thousand others are wounded, some having to bear the physical consequences for life. Though police and transport officials have been carrying out drives to deter violators, these are spasmodic. Not all who break traffic rules are caught for violations. Even for those caught for violations, fines of Rs 100 or Rs 500 were not something that mattered. Higher fines are likely to put fright in the minds of violators. It had become a fashion in the state for some parents to ‘train’ their children as young as 10 years to ride two wheelers and even drive four wheelers. Such parents saw such ‘training’ as a part of good parenting! They made their kid an adult even before they became one! The fear of paying Rs 25,000 fine and three years in jail should hopefully make such parents think of the life risks they were exposing their children and others to.
The state transport department hopes that imposition of higher penalties will prove a deterrent to violators. The department plans to give certain targets to every official entrusted with enforcement of the higher penalty regime. Making officials work harder should be welcome. However, the department must remember that officials could reach their target within a few hours and then leave the roads free for violators. The department officials must work throughout the day and even for extended hours in order to make their presence felt everywhere. Higher fines would lose their fear element without the omnipresence of the enforcer. As a matter of fact, lack of regular presence of road law enforcers has been one of the causes of the rules losing their sting and bite for drivers of commercial and private vehicles. Although the number of violators booked looks impressive in police records, that still is a negligible figure against actual number of offenders.