Criticism for Motor Vehicles Amendment Act

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Context: Moter Vehicle Amendment Act is being criticized for the provision for higher penalties. In this context, let's look at the criticism of this Act. 

Relevance: 
Prelims: Indian Polity and Governance 
Mains: GS II- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Motor Vehicle Amendment Act: 

  • The Act provides for the grant of licenses and permits related to motor vehicles, standards for motor vehicles.
  • The amended MVA has several new provisions:
    1. Increased compensation for road accident victims,
    2. A Motor Vehicle Accident fund to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users,
    3. Defining a good Samaritan,
    4. Recall of a defective motor vehicle,
    5. Development of a National Transportation Policy,
    6. A National Road Safety Board,
    7. Recognising taxi aggregators and
    8. Increased penalties for several offences.
  • All these are intended to reduce traffic crashes by at least 50% by 2030 (a target set by the United Nations). 

Criticism: 

  • Out of the many amendments proposed in the Act, the increased penalties have been implemented in many States from September 1, 2019; at the same time, many states have decided to “dilute” the suggested increase in penalties.
    • Concerns have been raised regarding dilution of Power of state in terms of granting license and other work.
    • Bill is missing the link in terms of whether the Centre or State will bear the cost of electronic monitoring of roads and highways to improve safety and improving the road design through engineering design corrections.
  • New penalties have been introduced for ‘faulty registration details, the concessionaire or the contractor who is responsible for faulty road design or has not followed standards, and for guardians of juvenile offenders to be penalised.
    • While there have to be penalties for offenders, there does not seem to be any correlation between stricter and higher penalties and a reduction in road traffic crashes in countries where road traffic deaths have reduced over the years’, examples being West Europe, the United States, Japan and Australia
    • The idea of higher fines as a deterrent to traffic crashes is based on the assumption that a driver is careless and that the fear of a higher penalty will encourage “careful” behaviour while on the road.
  • However, roads themselves play an important role in road safety, and improved geometry design and infrastructure could in turn help to improve road safety.
    • Drivers can modify their behaviour based on what they see on the road ahead of them.
    • Drivers are more likely to fall asleep or experience boredom on straight, monotonous, dual carriageway roads with little traffic’.
    • Stricter penalties and intensive driver training cannot reduce the risk of driver fatigue.
    • However, road engineers can change the road design to reduce boredom and monotony.
  • Many also raised the question of the effectiveness of making a Road Safety Board with only advisory powers, instead of making it responsible for deciding road-building standards.
  • It has been a tradition in ‘road safety to analyse road safety data in order to understand why crashes occur, which factors influence risks, and what determines crash severity, and then, based on this understanding, to arrive at reliable conclusions on how to prevent them most effectively and efficiently. This is called a data-driven approach.
    • In this approach, priorities are derived by using crash data, background data, exposure data and data on safety performance indicators’.
    • India has still not created a culture of producing scientific evidence for designing preventive strategies.



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