The Gurugram incident, in which a two-wheeler rider left his old scooter with the traffic police after he was issued a challan that exceeded the value of his vehicle, points to the problems in ensuring compliance with traffic laws and making roads safer. Indeed, violation of rules has become the norm, whether it is jumping the light, honking or driving in the right lane. The presence of traffic cops acts as a deterrent, but rules are more often violated than observed. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that came into effect on Sunday seeks to ensure better compliance by effecting a steep hike in penalty. With an estimated 1.5 lakh road accident deaths in the country, the enormity of the task cannot be underestimated. But the Gurugram case illustrates the problems likely to be encountered in enforcing these rules.
Buying a vehicle costs money and with fitness testing being made time-bound, the investment made has less shelf life. The value for money is of shorter duration which creates a predicament for the vehicle owner, like in the Gurugram case. But not that he can be condoned for riding without a helmet, licence, registration and pollution certificates and third party insurance. The incident serves as a case study. Punjab also has put in abeyance the implementation, saying the rules need more discussions and that laws should act as a deterrent to violations rather than depending on hefty fines. An estimated 4,725 persons lost their lives on roads in 2018 in Punjab. Jaspal Bhatti, the noted satirist, died in a road mishap. He was not wearing a seat belt while seated in the rear seat, a demand which is now being sought to be implemented in Chandigarh.
Penalties aside, traffic rules are for our own safety. They are aimed at bringing order on the roads and protecting lives. The new Bill has some positive features like seeking to protect the Good Samaritans who help accident victims and ensuring that the family gets compensation in case of a mishap. The government hopes that higher penalties will mean less accidents, but the problem is with minor offences. And therein lies the rub.