Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stiffer fines for traffic violators

One of the ways to enforce traffic laws followed by a large number of countries is by making the fines for offences stiff, thus discouraging people from breaking such laws. So, as an example, if you are caught speeding in the US, you can pay a fine in the hundreds of dollars, and heaven can only help you if you are caught driving when drunk (you can face a night in the jail, a mark on your license or its suspension, and massive embarrassment). And you don't want to be in a country like Singapore if you are caught violating a traffic rule. India wants to join the club of countries where traffic offence related fines are so large that you will be scared to commit one. Read this report:

Your wallet will get much lighter if you are a reckless driver. The government hopes to put the brakes on indisciplined driving across the country by imposing stiff penalties. And for the purpose, it brought a Bill in Parliament on Tuesday that proposes to raise fines and penalties while providing a high compensation package for victims of road accidents.
This Act is now sought to be amended. Road transport minister T R Baalu has tabled the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2007, which proposes the following: While speeding could cost you Rs 400-Rs 1,000 (with a doubling of the fine for repeat violators), drunken driving could get your licence suspended for 3 months besides imprisonment of 6 months and a fine of Rs 2,000 for the first offence.
The proposed legislation also authorises state governments to compound the fines if required. With an increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents, the government plans to hike accident compensation to Rs 1 lakh for death
and Rs 50,000 for partial disability.

Sounds all good and noble, but I am somewhat cynical about whether this will work in the Indian case. There are a number of other measures that will need to be taken if this has to become a reality.
Right now, even with the traffic fines that we have, there is not much of enforcement. Even in major cities, incidents of drunken driving, using mobile while driving, not following traffic lights, and plan reckless driving are extremely common and are not fined. And as you move away from a metro, it becomes even more unlikely that such offences will ever be prosecuted.
Secondly, Indian traffic police are an extremely corrupt lot. How many of us would not have encountered an incident where when caught by a traffic constable, the traffic constable would have offered to take a smaller amount, but without a receipt. If you put stiffer punishments, then that just increases the capability of traffic cops to make money. This will reach a point where the rich will get away, while poorer offenders will get squeezed.
Nowadays, if you are caught, then a person invokes all sort of influences to get away scot-free; I am the son of this minister, or I am the son of this big babu, or my father is this rich guy, or I am this godlike cricketer, and so on. Unless we reach a stage whereby the traffic constable can fine a person without fear and without any worries about future retribution, traffic enforcement will be lax.
I am not suggesting that we do not take such measures, but just by saying that the fines will increase, and hence will result in better traffic (wihout taking measures to control the above tendencies) is a bit naiive.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

If you like these writings, you can subscribe to this feed to get new postsSite Feed Site Feed

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:43 PM