Hold agencies, contractors culpable for road mishaps
Road contractors and licensee should be liable for accidents caused by their negligence.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is unable to handle the issue of accidents caused by faulty road designs & non-maintenance of roads. Therefore, it recommends that a penalty provision (Section 198A) may be inserted in the Bill to hold road contractors and concessionaires accountable for faulty road design, construction and maintenance of roads.
Road accidents last year have resulted in 1,50,000 deaths and more than a million injuries last year. More than half of the people who were the victim of accidents were in the age group of 15-34 which resulted into a great loss to human resource. Going by these figures, road accidents are considered as a national crisis.
Despite such surprising incidents, neither the Motor Vehicles Act (1988) nor the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill 2016, makes contractors accountable for faulty road designs.
Though under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) contractors can be booked for culpable homicide or causing deaths due to negligence but in most cases such incidents are registered as a case of rash and negligent driving.
When a driver can be held responsible for negligence, then why should contractors and principal road agencies be sparred for ignoring the standards of road design, construction and maintenance.
Steps that can be taken to reduce the increasing number of road accidents:
- Good quality roads
- Enhance infrastructure of public transportation such as metro trains, BRTS etc.
- Amend the archaic laws related to road safety
- Efficient and effective traffic management system
- Regular quality inspection of vehicles to ensure compliance with road safety standards
- Effective Policing to identify drivers that are in an inebriated state and persuading riders of two-wheeler vehicles to wear helmets.
Measures that have been taken by union and state governments in this regard are unable to achieve the desired objectives. The government has tried various awareness generation campaigns. Observing road safety week is one such effort. Roads have been widened and a new good Samaritan law has been proposed. 3D road breakers have also been proposed. Construction of roads per day should keep pace with the national objectives.
However, government has not yet implemented the recommendations of the Sundar Committee on Road Safety and Traffic Management for creating a safety board through legislation.
Netherland has introduced the vision of sustainable safe roads. Sweden also has a similar initiative called, Vision Zero.
The initiative proposes that the system should be first held responsible for any accident. The crises of ever increasing road accidents can be checked through legislative actions, affective administrative measures, making people aware about road safety and adhering to international road safety standards.