Those who do not give way to an ambulance or fire brigade may soon have to face a hefty fine of as much as ₹10,000 or/and imprisonment up to six months.
Their driving licence could be suspended in case they are caught speeding, racing, or driving under the influence of alcohol, among others. Road safety and reducing the number of accidents are key priorities of the government and imposing stiffer penalties can bring more discipline and force people to adhere to the traffic rules.
Cleared by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2019 will be introduced in the Rajya Sabha soon for its approval. Thereafter, the proposed amendments will become a law after the President’s consent.
The bill, which will replace the 30-year old law, aims 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.
“This Bill is an important first step to improve road safety in India. The law will help us meet our international commitments under the Brasilia Declaration of 2015 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The next important step is speedy passage in Rajya Sabha to ensure full implementation of the legislation," said Piyush Tewari, founder of SaveLIFE Foundation, a policy advocacy organisation that works on road safety and emergency care.
In a first, the Centre will develop a system for cashless treatment of road accident victims during the golden hour -- time period lasting one hour after a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood of preventing death by providing medical care. Besides, citizens who come forward and rescue accident victims will not be harassed.
Obtaining a driving licence (DL) will get tougher if you don’t have adequate skills as driving test will become technology driven, reducing human interface to curb corruption. Currently, licence testing is manual and untrained people also get licence. The proposed changes in the Act gives power to the Centre to make rules for the authority that issues licences. A national register of driving licence will be created that will comprise licence data from throughout the country to make transfer of vehicles across states easier and weed out fake DLs.
A Delhi-based professional, requesting anonymity, told Mint that imposing heavy penalties comes across as a good initiative and it will definitely change driving habits of people.
“The question still remains how it can be implemented effectively by state authorities. At times more fine may not necessarily end corruption and bribery," she said. “Hopefully, the provision of protecting good Samaritans will encourage more people to come forward and help out accident victims in need."
The government will also have the power to regulate taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber. Till now, the law did not recognise cab aggregators. Adding the word ‘aggregators’ in the Act will give power to the Centre to frame guidelines for these companies and make them more compliant.
An automobile manufacturer will have to recall motor vehicles in case of a defect that causes damage to the environment. Road contractors may need to be careful as they can be penalized for faulty road designs. Currently, there is no such provision under the law.