For errant motorists who have so far played hide and seek with traffic rules, the enforcement of strict traffic rules under the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, across several states seems to have come as an unpleasant, yet necessary step.
Since the enforcement of the law on September 1, traffic police across the country have stepped up patrolling on roads, highways and service lanes, checking and fining motorists for jumping signals, not wearing seat belts or helmets or not possessing driving documents. Drivers, who so far, hadn’t thought about the risk of drunk driving or didn’t take wearing the seat belt, updating their expired licenses or getting their vehicles insured seriously, have become careful.
Those who didn’t bother taking note of the new rules have faced hefty fines. On Tuesday (September 3), a scooter rider in Haryana’s Gurgaon was fined ₹23,000 for not carrying his driving licence and vehicle’s registration card. On Wednesday (September 4), a district judicial magistrate II court fined ₹16,000 on a two-wheeler rider who was caught riding in an inebriated state and without wearing a helmet or possessing a driving licence. The same day, a tractor driver in Gurgaon was fined ₹59,000 under the new Motor Vehicles Act for as many as 10 traffic violations including driving without a licence, carrying dangerous goods and flouting the traffic signal.
Under the new rules, riders and drivers will be imposed stricter penalties if they are found speaking on the mobile phone while driving, driving on the wrong lane and jumping traffic signals among other violations.
While those driving without a licence will have to pay a fine of ₹5,000 (instead of ₹500), the penalty for drunk driving is ₹10,000 (increased from ₹2,000). Those riding without a helmet have to shell out ₹1,000, while violation of licencing conditions would cost between ₹25,000 to ₹1 lakh. In public transport, fine for travelling without a ticket would now cost ₹500 (from ₹200). The penalty for overspeeding/racing is between ₹1,000 (for light motor vehicles) and ₹2,000 (for medium passenger vehicles). The guardians of underage drivers will be held responsible for their wards – the penalty for them is a fine of ₹25,000 along with three years’ imprisonment and cancellation of registration.
However, the fines are steeper in other Asian countries. For instance, drunk driving in Hong Kong would cost one ₹2,29,376, ₹2,58,771 in Singapore and ₹6,77,115 in Japan. Similarly, overspeeding would cost a commuter ₹2,936 in Hong Kong, ₹ 7,736 in Singapore and ₹23,699 in Japan.
Many governments like Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Telangana, expressing their skepticism over the stringent regulations, have refused to implement the new law in their states. The Gujarat government has stated that the hefty fines are not feasible and that they will implement the new law after getting a report from the RTO.
The Rajasthan government has said that it will consider implementing the new regulations only after reviewing the penalty amount, which transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said was more than the cost of the vehicle in some cases. The Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal governments meanwhile have refused to implement the law.