By Samyak Purkait
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The Central government needs to be lauded for having taken some stern steps to improve the safety of our roads and has proposed to increase the fines for violation of traffic rules and other forms of undisciplined behavior of the drivers which, often, lead to mishaps. However, the pertinent question is whether increasing penalties for violations would have any impact on the safety of our roads?
Going by the adage, prevention is better than cure, it seems that the Central government’s decision to increase the fines aims at finding a cure rather than attempting to prevent such incidents. Yes, it might be a deterrent for some but for most it won’t be so.
If we analyze the causes of road accidents we will note that, mainly, the following types of drivers are the culprits:
- Accidents caused by the professional drivers who drive motor vehicles for a living.
- Accidents caused by the owners who are rich and take their vehicles out for a joyride.
If we consider the first type of people, they are professional drivers. They consist of mainly truckers and passenger vehicle drivers, like the bus drivers and the taxi drivers. These people are constantly under pressure to meet the challenges of their profession. They need to take unwanted risks to meet timelines and deliver their goods and passengers to their respective destinations. They work under conditions which, at times, can be inhuman. These factors, along with their deplorable economic condition, produce a lot of stress. Safe driving requires a healthy body and mind behind the wheel which, unfortunately, are conditions the professional drivers only dream of. Moreover, the road transportation industry has its own problems and, like any other industry, is driven by the aspiration of the owners to make profit and, in case of a profitable concern, to make a killing. To achieve this, the drivers, a cog in the wheel of this industry, are forced to drive recklessly in most cases and that lead to accidents. Increasing fines won’t reduce the chances of accidents as in this case the gains outweigh the risks and the drivers will be forced to take risks. It won’t reduce the crunching time schedules that they have to adhere to. Yes, it might make them cautious to some extent but over a longer period of time they will be forced to throw caution to the wind to meet their deadlines and that will obviously lead to accidents.
For the second class of people money hardly matters. They are the rich people who can easily afford to pay a stringent fine. They are the celebrities, the superstars of the movie world, the brats with famous family names, who can get away with just about anything in our country. Imposing a hefty fine hardly makes a difference to their attitudes or to their bank balances. They are driven by the adrenaline rush and the desire to flaunt their mean machines. They do not hesitate to take out their super cars on the busy thoroughfares of our crowded cities and floor the accelerator pedal.
Imposing fines is good for a short period of time but over a long term period it hardly makes any difference. Instead of imposing fines we should focus more on improving the mentalities of Indian drivers. Workshops should be conducted for them. Also licenses should be given to only those who pass a tough test and not to just about anyone who applies. Professional drivers should be, periodically, subjected to psychological tests which, of course, are easier said than done. We should remember that prevention is better than cure. Imposing fines may be a cure but it is certainly not prevention by any means.
Samyak is someone with wide variety of interests from social work to politics to sports etc. A fun loving extrovert sort of person, he is always willing to participate in constructive forums which help hone his soft as well as hard skills. A keen observer of political events and always willing to scratch the surface and go deeper into the political actions of politicians.