The proposed Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 seeks to levy prohibitive penalty and stricter punishments for road-related offences. If you don’t give way to emergency vehicles or are drunk, the fine is Rs 10,000. Erring underage driver’s guardian will be fined Rs 25,000 with three-year jail time. The highest fine is of Rs 1 lakh, for taxi aggregators violating licencing norms.
The Print asks: Can steep fines & jail time under Motor Vehicles Bill be enforced and deter people?
Heavy fine works like magic in India and I fully support this new Bill
Former IPS officer, Mumbai
In India, 400 people die every day and nearly a thousand people are injured in traffic accidents. The reasons for these accidents are manifold. They range from congestion to people driving in a hurry, to cars not being well-maintained, to drunk drinking and motorists not following safety rules.
Maintaining discipline on the roads is a three-step process. The first is education: people must be educated about traffic norms and safety rules. Second is engineering: how well-planned and structurally feasible the roads are. And last is enforcement: penalising the offenders.
In Mumbai, the municipal corporation announced a fine of Rs 10,000 if people parked their cars in no-parking zones. This has helped in checking the problem of illegal parking to a large extent. I have seen that heavy monetary punishment works like magic in India and I fully support this new Bill.
Educating people about traffic rules and road engineering are definitely important, but enforcement is the key to bring about an attitudinal shift.
The punishment should be immediate and there should be on-the-spot fine collection. Indian roads are dangerous and this new law is an excellent initiative. In future, the government should also look at artificial intelligence (AI) to check road accidents.
Spirit of constitutionalism isn’t in DNA of most Indians. People who break rules here abide by them abroad
Dean of School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance, TISS
Whether steep fines and jail time will deter people from violating traffic rules or not can be answered by looking at which section of society is at the receiving end. The poor and the middle class will think twice before violating traffic rules. So yes, such provisions will deter this section. However, such fines and penalties do not matter to the rich, and so whether they will be deterred remains doubtful.
While discussing enforcement of laws, it is important to understand that concepts such as constitutionalism and rule of law are not in the DNA of most Indian citizens. I say this because the same people who violate traffic rules in India, abide by them abroad because they know they cannot manipulate or bribe their way out. The flip side of enforcement is that people who are likely to be deterred by the new provisions can also potentially find themselves feeling burdened when they are caught in the wrong.
Therefore, the focus should be on proper enforcement with the help of technology to ensure that there is no corruption. I say this because there are many policemen and advocates who themselves flout traffic rules. There should also be a provision to issue public notices of action against traffic police personnel for misusing the law. The only way the new bill can bring reform is if there is more visibility of rules being followed. Lastly, to ensure the rich are also deterred, they should be asked to do community service if found guilty.
People must respect traffic laws & not follow them only because a constable is there to catch them
Former Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Maharashtra Police
The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill will most definitely have a deterrent effect. When people jump signals and are caught, they don’t even look at the police constable’s face and just hand out a Rs 100 note because the money is dispensable. The same is true for motorcyclists not wearing helmets.
With this new Bill recommending higher fines, people will think twice before jumping a signal or not wearing a helmet.
When I was a traffic policeman and caught people for not wearing helmets, I would give them two options: either pay the fine or leave the bike with me and go buy a sturdy helmet.
People must respect the traffic laws. The sad part is that people follow rules only when a traffic constable is there, and not because they want to abide by the safety rules. People should understand that the traffic police is not there for revenue collection.
That being said, with stricter penalties and higher fines, people will follow the rules now. They will drive in a more disciplined manner as there is a lot at stake. Half of the road fatalities can be avoided if people just drive in a responsible way.
Non-monetary punishments like punching holes on driving licence for every violation may work better
Assistant Professor (Law & Regulatory Economics), Delhi School of Economics
The straight forward answer to whether the proposed Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill will deter traffic code violations is yes, it will, but partially. I say this because regardless of the amount, monetary punishments for petty traffic violations like jumping traffic signals and over-speeding do not always work in the desired direction, especially if the checking or patrolling by the authorities is lax.
Besides imposing monetary penalties, non-monetary punishments like punching holes on the driving licence for every violation (a practice that has been in place in some states to identify repeat offenders), or suspending the violator’s licence after a certain number of offences may work better.
It is important to understand that there is also a cultural problem in our country. People who drive cabs, cars or autos simply do not respect the rights of others, especially of pedestrians. What is required in such circumstances is that people are sensitised, especially regarding traffic rules, and informed about how these rules are obeyed in other countries.
Not the fine, but the knowledge that someone like me had to pay it brings a change in behaviour
CEO of Final Mile Consulting (a Behaviour Science and Design Consultancy)
Steep fines and strict penalties will indeed help deter traffic offenders. However, what can really bring a change in behaviour is not the knowledge that one has to pay a steep fine for traffic violation but that someone like me had to pay such a fine. If someone from your in-group (people you relate to) has to pay a fine, that knowledge affects you more.
Simultaneously, there are certain mental models that need to be changed, like women drivers and those driving expensive cars are not fined by traffic police. I remember recently reading a news report on “women driver in luxury car caught for drunk driving”. Publicising such an incident, for instance, helps in changing the mental model that women are not fined by the police.
It also important that the amount of fine that will be imposed on the offender is communicated at the point of action – the roads. Studies have shown that even a strategic placement of a placard on the road with a photograph of a traffic policeman has an impact. If there is a perception of surveillance, or someone looking at you, there is less chance of people breaking rules.
By Revathi Krishnan and Fiza Jha