The past two decades have witnessed a huge rise in road accidents, fatalities and other safety concerns in India. A government committee estimated that road accidents rose by about 50% between 2005 and 2015. However, it was only in 2014 that the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) committee proposed a new legislation, incorporating all modes of transportation, multi-modal integration, road safety, etc. Following that, the Road Transport and Safety Bill was drafted in 2014. Finally, it was redrafted with the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill in 2019. The bill suggests a new National Transportation Policy, which may replace the existing National Urban Transport Policy, 2014. The inclusion of rural India and hilly regions within the scope of the Bill will allow a gradual reduction of rural/hilly region road accidents. The central government may develop a National Transportation Policy, in consultation with state governments along with safety experts in transportation.
The Centre will support steps to improve the use of existing infrastructure by capacity maximization measures. Equitable road space should be implemented to reduce safety concerns. The safety concerns of cyclists and pedestrians have to be addressed by encouraging the construction of segregated rights of way. Significant investments are needed to satisfy the above requirements. Safety of commuters requires that roads are audited periodically. A database for accidents should also be built up by each town and city, and updated regularly. Rescue services should be organized for quick relief.
An urban road transport safety board should be set up at the state level to deal with safety issues in a comprehensive, scientific and systematic manner. The provision can be set up for identifying road safety audit agencies to support the cause. The agencies may be private, semi-private or government-backed transport based firms, institutes or research centres. They can provide training to individuals from different government institutions and authorities to execute the audits.
A unified driving licencing and vehicle registration system will come into existence. To prevent duplication, a biometric-based easy and transparent system can be used. It proposes private sector participation and the use of automated driving trials to improve capacity of drivers across the country. For the safety and security of women and commuters in general, state transport undertakings and special purpose vehicles operating public transit in all cities should deploy only police-verified drivers and conductors.
The bill also encourages to promote safer vehicles and technology. This will allow greener modes of transport for Indian roads. Advancement and campaign for electric and hybrid vehicles can be a huge step towards sustainable transport choice for personal needs. Currently, India doesn’t have enough infrastructure for environment-friendly modes on roads, irrespective of rail-based public transport modes.
It will make the online system simple to transfer vehicles across countries. Integration of vehicle database throughout India ensures that anyone transferring from one state to another often gets benefits. A national-level data depository is also obligatory for aggregating the data related to roads, accidents, vehicles, users/drivers and other infrastructure to regulate the existing and future requirements and capacity.
The government needs to ensure better ways to implement and enforce the new rules and regulations to its fullest. There is no point of making a bill that requires huge amount of risks in enforcement, if the government fails to make it practical.
Sewa Ram is professor (transport planning) at School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi.
Date: November 19, 2019