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New Motor Vehicles Act 2019: The Changes & People’s Response

The Indian Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 has come into effect from 1st September, and it has already generated mixed responses from the public at large.

In addition to some welcome improvements, heavy penalties have been introduced for common traffic violations.

  • Why was the amendment necessary?
  • What changes for you?
  • Are these modifications and increased fines justified?

Let’s try to answer these questions by putting things into perspective:

  • The Indian economy loses 3% of its GDP due to road accidents.
  • 53 road accidents happen every hour.
  • India recorded maximum deaths due to road accidents in the world.
  • 17 people die every hour, and 16 children die every day.
  • Over 1.5 lakh people die, and 3 lakh are crippled every year due to 5 lakh road accidents.
  • On average, 1,36,118 people have died every year in the last 10 years.

Road Accidents and Deaths:

  • Caused by Citizens/Road Users: Lack of traffic sense/lane discipline, over speeding, drunken driving, red light jumping, negligent parking, road rage, triple-riding, avoiding safety measures (helmets and seat belts), and using mobile phones.
  • Caused by Government Agencies: Lack of infrastructural facilities, poorly maintained roads, potholes, dangerous curves, insufficient lighting, and lack of appropriate road signs.

The above facts clearly show how deadly road accidents can be in India and the situation did not seem to be heading in a positive direction with the help of the existing motor vehicle Act.

Undoubtedly, many aspects require the government’s action and initiatives.
However, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had a considerate view that substantial penalties would help in ensuring civilians are more alert and prevent them from making fatal mistakes in the future.

The New Motor Vehicles Act 2019 aims to deter citizens from violating
traffic rules and penalties will be increased by 10% every year on 1st April, as notified by the central government of India.

Fines have been increased for multiple offences. The key points of the new Act are as follows:

  • Not wearing a helmet: 1,000 Rs fine and three-month disqualification of licence. Earlier, it was 100 Rs without any impact on your licence.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt: 1,000 Rs fine.
  • Driving without a licence: 5,000 Rs fine. Earlier, it was merely 500 Rs.
  • Driving while drunk: Up to six months of imprisonment and/or fine up to 10,000 Rs for the first offence. The second one could invite up to two years of imprisonment and/or 15,000 Rs fine.
  • Over-speeding: 1,000-2,000 Rs (LMVs), 2,000-4,000 Rs for medium passenger/goods vehicles and impounding of driving licence for a subsequent offence. Earlier, it was 400 Rs.
  • Racing, speeding: Up-to one month of imprisonment and/or up-to 500 Rs fine for the first offence. The second one could invite up-to one month of imprisonment and/or 1,000 Rs fine.
  • Driving dangerously: Up to six months or one year of imprisonment and/or fine of 1,000-5,000 Rs for the first offence. Up to two years of imprisonment and/or fine of up to 10,000 Rs.
  • Offences by juveniles: The guardian/owner of the vehicle shall be deemed to be guilty, a fine of 25,000 Rs and three years of imprisonment. The juvenile to be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. The registration of the vehicle will be cancelled for 12 months.
  • Driving an uninsured vehicle: 2,000 Rs and/or up-to three months of imprisonment for the first offence. 4,000 Rs and/or up-to three months of imprisonment for the second offence. Earlier, it was 1,000 Rs fine and/or up-to three months of imprisonment.
  • Disobedience of authorities’ orders: 2,000 Rs fine. Earlier, it was 500 Rs.
  • Penalty for offences where the penalty is not explicitly mentioned: 500 Rs for the first offence and 1,500 Rs for every subsequent offence.
  • The period for renewal of driving licence has been increased from one month to one year after expiry.
  • The new Act also promises to protect citizens who render emergency medical/non-medical assistance to a victim of an accident, from civil or criminal liabilities.
  • The minimum compensation for deaths/grievous injuries due to hit and run cases has been moved up considerably.

At this stage, it is only a model Act, and state governments are free to make their laws, rules or regulations. It is up to them to impose new provisions. As states buy time to notify all 63 sections of the amended Act, as of today, all violators will have to go to court to pay fines. The in-depth information about the new Act can be obtained from the official Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

The New Motor Vehicles Act 2019 has brought stringent regulation of traffic rules and hefty penalties for violations. Many citizens, including political leaders, are not too pleased, and they feel such huge fines are not justified. Gujrat, Punjab, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are some of the states that have refused to implement the present vehicle act. Others have decided to reduce penalties.

The discussions regarding the merits and demerits will continue. Looking at the bigger picture, the steep rise in fines is lesser than the cost of a precious human life. When a life is lost due to a traffic violation, it is not only the person who committed an offence suffers, but other people also pay the price for somebody else’s fault.

Demanding low penalties could reflect an indirect willingness to violate rules and end up paying a small amount. If you are following traffic rules and have all the required documents, you will not have to worry about paying any amount.

The government and the traffic police must also play their parts by organizing public awareness programmes to educate citizens about the importance of road safety. They should take steps towards constructing better roads, regulating safety features of vehicles and strictly enforcing traffic rules.

Be alert, follow the rules, have the necessary insurance, other documents in place and save your hard-earned money. Motor insurance not only fulfils a legal requirement, but it also protects your vehicle and ensures invaluable peace of mind.

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Sources: Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, GOI, World Health Organization, Times of India, Deccan Herald, News 18, MapsofIndia, ET Online and The Hindu-Business Line.

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