The decision of the Government of India to bring in effect the Motor Vehicles Act of 2019 is one of the most important and long-awaited decision that should have been taken years back. It is
The decision of the Government of India to bring in effect the Motor Vehicles Act of 2019 is one of the most important and long-awaited decision that should have been taken years back. It is a decision that should be celebrated rather than despised. This act aims at bringing in an awareness and a fear of law that has been missing to-date.
Every day, the blatant abuse of road laws and road manners brings every large metropolis in the country to a grinding halt. Not to mention the small matter of approx. 150,000 lives lost every year to road accidents has not taught us citizens to follow rules. The shear disregard for traffic rules and human lives urgently needed strict actions that would instill a fear of law. And hopefully, this act will bring in the necessary change.
We are an anxious and eager society who look at the western world and aspire to be one of them. We are a society that is impatient to grow and stamp our mark on the world as a true superpower. But a truly great nation needs to behave and act like one where its every citizen is a law-abiding citizen and cares for the lives of fellow individuals. We need to learn to follow humanity first before we can ourselves become a civilised nation. Just like we follow in the footsteps of the developed western world, we need to learn to take the right things from them and make them as a way of life. Things like:
- Road manners
- Being considerate towards your fellow road users
- Respect for Traffic laws
- Why “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” philosophy is best on roads
- Common sense
- Most importantly: Value of a human life
Unless, we learn to adopt and follow the above in our journey towards becoming an advanced race, we would struggle to call ourselves a truly developed society. And to understand this, we need to first figure out the reasons behind our current state and why this Motor vehicle Act of 2019 is so vital in this journey. A lot of self-introspection will give us the answers we are looking for.
The situation over the past 20 years has quickly gone out of control with rapid urbanization of all the major metros across the country. Compounded by people migrating from villages to the cities with bare minimum awareness about road safety and manners, the traffic situation in the country has become unsustainable and dangerous.
However, it’s shocking to see that together with these people who with the lure of a better living and sudden exposure to the urban environment, even the so-called intellectuals with white collar jobs are the biggest culprits when it comes to traffic violations.
Go to any IT park in the country and the shear arrogance and blatant traffic violations by these so-called educated class is an embarrassment to our society. Driving on the wrong side of the road, cutting lanes, disregard for two-wheelers and by the two-wheelers towards other road users are just a few examples of blatant disregard for road manners. And people from villages who migrate to cities by trading their farmlands with big swanky SUV’s are some of the common violators on our roads.
Acting like a responsible civilised society
It was sad to see the educated class complaining on social media about the implementation of this law and crying about the hefty fines. Yes, there is massive scope of improvement when it comes to infrastructure, but as a citizen of a country, it is our duty to be the change we expect to see. Paying taxes is a good and important thing, but that doesn’t make one immune from the fact that following rules is common to all. Unless we do our bit, it is impossible to expect a universal change in our society.
For such people, here is a stat that hopefully will open their eyes and help understand where the proposed fines in the motor act lie compared to that of other advanced countries.
Although it is safe to say that there is a gap between the quality of infrastructure in some of the developed countries listed above and India, and the resultant fines may seem a little skewed, the motor vehicle act is the first step towards becoming a safer commuting country.
How long will we blame the government for the worsening traffic conditions and start doing our bit to contribute towards safer roads?
We as educated individuals need to start behaving in a civilised manner by doing our bit in making our roads safer.
Poor Infrastructure and Intra-city road network:
Another major factor that has contributed significantly to this situation is the poor planning of our cities. Roads which are supposed to help people navigate from one point to another in the most efficient manner have design flaws that shout shortsightedness. Short term solutions such as unnecessary flyovers or grade-separators tend to cause havoc in cities with already crowded open spaces. Major roads in the big cities are laden with potholes and the authorities tend to make quick stitch arrangements using poor techniques like paver blocks or bad quality tarmac.
Go to any city and the drainage systems on roads are so messed up that, dodgy contractors regularly dig up and make stop-gap arrangements that make the roads even more dangerous. Prime example were the unprecedented rains in Pune in 2019 which caused havoc on roads.
To address such flaws, we just need to look at some of the advanced cities around the world and learn from the techniques they apply.
One such example of excellent drainage system is the city of Troy, Michigan in USA. After a late-night heavy shower that lasted an hour in September 2019, I ventured out early next morning only to find roads that were completely dry without a single puddle of water. It was as if it never rained. The same amount of rain would have caused huge puddles of water on Indian roads which take at least a day to subside leading to dangerous road conditions. There is so much we can learn.
This is something which should be next on the Governments agenda as a priority item, as it is an equal contributor to the worsening traffic situation. Building new roads or widening of the existing ones will alone not solve the problem. It requires in depth study and implementation of right techniques and concepts to make our roads safer.
I mean, how difficult is it to understand?
Excellent public transport network:
Go to any European nation and the first thing you realize is the excellence in public transport network. Metros, trams, busses are a common scene in any major European city. To add to that, dedicated cycle lanes for people to commute is something of a luxury by Indian standards. So why not follow in the right footsteps and provide the best possible public transport facilities to 1.3 billion people?
Look at the flawed system in the USA and you will realize the wrong path we are on. The US never allowed the public transport system to flourish in a bid to cater to their dominant lobby of Automotive giants. Their cities and economy are all built around the success of Automotive industry. This has resulted in a horrendous situation where it is impossible to survive without owning a private vehicle. Yes, it is true that they have probably the best road network in the world (looking at the scale), but that still does not justify the fact that public transport is non-existent.
One way of reducing accidents and developing an efficient commuting network is to improve the public transport methods. You have modes of transport that are far cheaper, safer and efficient. Especially in congested cities, these are excellent ways of making our roads less deadly by reducing the dependency on two wheelers.
Teaching road manners in elementary school:
Perhaps, the best gift we can give to our future and current younger generations is teaching road manners right from elementary schools. With the need to commute longer distances for work and education, today’s kids are exposed to driving at an early age. This pushes them to use bikes and cars on a daily basis which exposes them to the real-world dangers.
It is critical that these kids are taught basic road manners right from an early age to ensure they take the right decisions while on the road. Respecting your fellow road users, pedestrians, traffic lights, driving only on roads (and not on footpaths), observing speed limits are just some of the critical things to be learnt. Advanced level knowledge such as hazards of driving fast on tires, benefits of advanced safety features etc. are key to ensuring people are aware of what is good for them.
Eventually, what is so comforting and refreshing to see is that the government of India has finally taken decisions for the safety of its citizens. These will hopefully act as deterrents to the general public and spread awareness of safety on Indian roads. We as citizens should embrace the changing policies and mindset and play a pivotal and active role in making our roads safer.