India accounts for more than 11 per cent of total global road accidents. It is a signatory to the UN declaration on halving the number of road accidents by 2030.
While delivering a lecture during a recent seminar organised by the International Road Federation (IRF) in Delhi, the president of the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) said the traffic police in the National Capital Region (NCR) focus on fining offenders for not carrying documents like driving licences and pollution control certificates but do little to curb ‘moving violations’, such as speeding and rash driving.
“What the traffic police is enforcing today is an easy approach rather than regulating traffic and checking moving traffic violations,” said IRTE president Dr Rohit Baluja.
According to Baluja, the Supreme Court in 2017 appointed a committee on road safety and directed police departments across India to classify offences such as speeding, red light jumping, mobile phone usage, and wrong-side driving under the category of dangerous driving and to increase the fines. Taking the apex court’s orders into consideration, the Delhi Traffic Police collected Rs 64.8 crore in traffic fines that year. The number of road accident fatalities in 2017 was 1,584. In 2021, the traffic police collected Rs 493 crore in fines but the number of road accidents came down to 1,230.
“The decrease in fatal road accidents was due to lockdown during the pandemic. Thus, bursting the myth that higher fines will help reduce fatal road accidents,” said Baluja. He added that “The definition of offences and their penalties in the amended Motor Vehicles Act has opened the floodgates to confusion, corruption, and public harassment. Each driver or rider has become an ATM for the enforcement agencies.”
The amended Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act redefines dangerous driving as “a manner of driving which causes a sense of alarm or distress to the occupants of a vehicle, other road users and persons near roads.” It, however, does not specify what causes the said distress.
“Most traffic signals in the capital and signages do not correspond to standard codes of practice. This will lead to most drivers being caught unaware of violations,” Baluja further said.
Speaking at the seminar, K K Kapila, president emeritus of the IRF, said: “In India, drivers take road signs for granted. But at most places in Delhi, they (road signs) remain hidden, bungled, missing, or just plain wrong. Simple road engineering measures like provision of appropriate road markings and traffic signs, and minor layout changes in road junctions are proven measures that significantly reduce road accidents.”
Notably, India accounts for more than 11 per cent of total global road accidents. It is a signatory to the UN declaration on halving the number of road accidents by 2030. The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, however, aims to reach the target by 2025.