ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Roads: Ensuring Safety

The government recently tabled the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in Parliament seeking to revise the fines and penalties specified in the existing laws and also raising compensation amounts for victims of road accidents. State governments have also been authorised to compound the fines if required. Last month, the Delhi High Court mandated an additional Rs 500 fine for every offence besides the fines (now hiked) specified by the Act. The proposed amendments are indeed timely. Major investments have been and will continue to be made in roads (although more on highways and city roads than in the villages) and the automotive sector has been attracting a steady flow of large investments. In the scheme of things of the union ministry of shipping, road transport and highways the National Highways Development Project will see an investment of Rs 2,27,258 crore between 2005 and 2012. However, revisions of road-related laws remain an inadequate measure in ensuring that safety on roads is commensurate with the quality of some of the infrastructure that is sought to be provided and upgraded.

The Sundar Committee, which submitted its report in February this year, was set up by the union ministry of surface transport, ships and highways in 2005 to address an entire gamut of issues relating to road safety. The previous year, the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention by the World Bank and World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that road traffic injuries remain a major and neglected global public health problem. More than 1.2 million people perished in road crashes globally every year, of which around 92,000 deaths occurred in India; the largest 12 cities in the country accounted for a third of all these deaths. The total number of road traffic injuries and deaths worldwide has been projected to rise by 65 per cent between 2000 and 2020 whereas in low income and middle income countries, deaths would rise by as much as 80 per cent. The majority of such deaths are at present of “vulnerable road users, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motorcyclists”.

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