Can the onus for all fatal accidents be put only on drivers?

Rohit Chandavarkar
Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The proposed amendments in Motor Vehicle Act are going to provide stringent punishment for drivers involved in fatal accidents. But will the onus be only on drivers all the time? What about incidents such as Saturday’s bus crash in which 30 people lost their lives and one survivor who is the only witness of the accident says that the bus lost balance because of poor road maintenance and big potholes. 

The Lok Sabha is going to discuss the proposed amendments in the Motor Vehicle Act which will provide for stringent fine and punishments to vehicle drivers involved in breaking rules or negligence which leads to fatal accidents. The rules are already quite strict but now they will be 
further tightened.

The question to be asked however is whether these rules will really reduce road accidents in India which currently claim close to 1,60,000 lives every year and whether only vehicle drivers can be held responsible for all that goes wrong on the roads and highways.
Just over the last weekend, Maharashtra was shaken by the terrible accident which claimed 30 lives as a bus fell into a gorge in the dangerous Ambenali ghat (hilly road) which is known to be one of the most dangerous highways in the state and has seen several fatal accidents over the past many years. 

Prakash Sawant-Desai who was the lone survivor in this accident told media that he was sitting next to the driver of the bus and as in rainy season, visibility was low and on the left side of the road, heaps of mud were kept with gaps between them. The front wheel of the bus at one point left the road and dipped in such a way that the entire bus tilted and then fell into the gorge.

There was never a crash guard or barricade built on this road despite the gorge being 500 feet deep, and Prakash Sawant-Desai says if only a crash guard or barricade was built there, 30 lives would have been saved and perhaps dozens and dozens of lives which have been lost earlier on this road could also have been saved if only this road had safety barricade. 

Who is responsible for these accidents?  

This is just one example among hundreds of examples of accidents happening all over India because of bad or improper road conditions or lack of maintenance of infrastructure. Will we blame only the vehicle drivers for these accidents?

During this monsoon season, Maharashtra has seen many accident deaths because of two-wheeler riders falling because of potholes on the on roads. In Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and smaller towns, several incidents of two-wheeler riders falling because of a potholes and then being crushed by a truck have been reported. Who is responsible for such accidents? Can the two-wheeler driver be blamed for this or will the truck driver be blamed for these accidents?

There is no way fatal accidents in this country can be controlled or restricted by just making stricter rules. The problems such as badly designed roads or bridges, potholes, lack of barricades on hilly roads, weak or outdated bridges, bad lighting on roads and highways are all the responsibility of municipal or government establishments, just the vehicle drivers cannot be held responsible for all accidents. 

Members of the Parliament who will discuss the Motor Vehicle Act amendments must discuss all this on Tuesday. 

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