MY OPINION ‘It’s high time we had tougher road-safety laws’ 1

Gopinath Munde joins the long list of politicians like Saheb Singh Verma, Rajesh Pilot and Gyani Zail Singh who lost their lives due to road ac cidents.The lives of one lakh and thirty thousand Indians are cut short every year due to circumstances that are totally avoidable. Fatalities on roads keep rising unabated without any tears being shed unless some near and dear one is the victim.

Indiscipline is the main villain on Indian roads. We spend a lot of time talking about traffic congestion, delays and jams, but road safety always take a backseat and is rarely discussed. We want good roads and infrastructure, but our road-user behaviour doesn’t improve commensurate with the improvement of roads.

As a result, good roads not necessarily lead to safer journeys. Surprising but true. Cautious and responsible road-user behaviour is many a time subjected to mockery . Even those who fol low traffic rules it is mainly to avoid being caught by traffic police and not because it is the right thing to do for our own safety .

And quite contrary to common perception, indiscipline on roads has no correlation with education levels! To presume that the educated are better road users compared to the not-so-educated is a complete fallacy.

Many among us would be quick to highlight lack of awareness as an excuse. But I beg to differ.

I am yet to come across a commuter who doesn’t know that `red’ means `stop’; or that over-speeding, signaljumping or drunken driving can cause accidents.

Most mishaps occur during late nights or early mornings when there are not many vehicles on the road and near absence of policemen. This gives a virtual li cence to drivers to violate every possible rule with impunity, albeit at a huge risk to their own and the life of other road users. But there is limit to putting policemen at every nook and corner round the clock.

Unfortunately , there is a thin line between enforcement and harassment and both can be interpreted interchangeably depending on which side of the table one is sitting. Technology-driven evidence-based strict enforcement is one of the most effective solutions to bring discipline on the roads and enhance safety. Success of our enforcement should not be measured by the amount of fine collection but by decline in road fatalities and injuries. It will be a real tragedy to treat enforcement as a revenue-generating measure.

Strict enforcement is not the domain of traffic police alone. It has to start with stricter control of issue of driving licences. Most driving schools are unregulated and act as facilitators for getting driving licence rather than sensitizing the driver about road safety .
Most of these do not progress beyond A,B,C i.e. accelerator, brake and clutch.

But enforcement has its own limitations. Without legislative policy changes for stricter monetary fines, especially for repeat offenders, we will achieve very little beyond statistics.

Monetary penalties are deterrent but to bring sustainable improvements in road-user behaviour, we need to walk an extra mile by having tougher laws like suspension of driving licences, enhanced insurance premiums and even imprisonment.

Road-safety standards review in the country are overdue. It’s high time lawmakers pressed the priority button and legislate tougher roadsafety laws. Such a move will be the greatest tribute to the death of Shri Munde and million others who meet untimely death on the road. RIP Gopinath Munde! (The writer is additional director general of police.

The opinions expressed are personal)


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One comment on “MY OPINION ‘It’s high time we had tougher road-safety laws’

  1. Reply Srinivas Shenoy Sep 18, 2014 6:11 am

    At last all our appeals will be answered soon sir. If this new Road Transport & Safety Bill is passed, we can hope that there will be discipline on our roads as a Traffic Warden for 7 years now I know that all or majority of the traffic violations are by the educated and people who think they can get away with it. Severe punishments and penalties will surely bring some order on the road. While awareness plays an important part its the stupidity, carelessness arrogance that overshadows awareness and knowledge of rules and safety on the road. I have been going to schools for over 4 years imparting traffic and safety awareness sessions (through Catch Them Young program) to the school kids with a hope that at least 5-10% of them take things seriously and be disciplined on the roads.

    Let’s hope that Acche din on the roads are soon going to be there.

    Srinivas Shenoy

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