What the latest road safety legislation means for India

20 January 2020 Consultancy.in 3 min. read

Following the enactment of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act 2019 (MVA 2019) in August last year, Big Four accounting and advisory firm PwC has released comprehensive analysis of the report’s salient features, highlighting the new safety features that the legislation brings to the table. 

The new iteration of the MVA is the culmination of prolonged efforts from the government and a number of domestic and international NGOs that have been working to tackle the rampant menace of road accidents in India. In 2018 alone, well over 150,000 people were killed in road accidents.

This is excluding accidents in which there were no casualties. In total, there were nearly 470,000 road accidents in India in 2018. Similarly high numbers have been recorded for a number of years across the country, although some regions have proven to be more accident prone than others.

What the latest road safety legislation means for India

Most accidents took place in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Within these states, highways appear to be the most deadly areas, accounting for well over half of all accidents across India. As the situation has worsened, the government has been engaged in efforts to identify problem areas and take preventive measures.

PwC has traced the progress of these efforts in its latest report, starting when several United Nations member countries including India pledged to make 2004 the Year of Road Safety. A year later, the ‘Sundar Committee’ was set up to research international best practices in tackling road safety as a public health and economic issue.

The committee examined the MVA and began to suggest changes to it throughout 2007 and 2008. Once the gaps were identified the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Bill was introduced in parliament in 2010, which passed through to become the National Road Safety Policy.

What the latest road safety legislation means for India

The new policy included a number of provisions to promote safety, including: a push to raise awareness; the establishment of a road safety information database; a push for better road infrastructure and safer vehicles; more stringent enforcement of road safety laws and a number of other provisions.

2011 saw the establishment of a Working Group by the Road Safety Cell in India to create a more conducive environment to implement the 4 Es of road safety: Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Services, which still constitute the basis for many legislative changes in India.   

In 2015, India became a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration of Road Safety, which entailed a resolution to halve the number of road accidents and fatalities by 2020. More legislation was passed in 2016 in the form of amendments to the MVA, allowing for features such as third-party insurance, regulation of taxi aggregators and road safety.

What the latest road safety legislation means for India

The legislative process culminated in the MVA 2019 passed in August last year, which paves the way for three major changes. The first is a bigger focus on driver behaviour, which involves stricter penalties for breaking rules and carelessness. MVA 2019 also enables vehicle intervention, allowing the government to recall vehicles that are not in compliance with safety standards.

The last is enabling infrastructure intervention, which allows for holding contractors and consultants to account. In much of the new provisions, legislators have drawn inspiration from world leaders in road safety standards such as Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. 

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways now has to take into account a variety of 'new mobility' features, which includes the advent of electric vehicles (EVs), which are likely to become an increasingly central component of mobility infrastructure in India.