Blog: India's Traffic Problem Needs Better Infrastructure More Than Just Hefty Fines

The hefty fines under the new Motor Vehicle Act may not be enough to battle India's problem of traffic and road accidents or that is what the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) believes.

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India contributes to 23 per cent of road accident fatalities globally

For 2018, the Indian government reported about 1.5 lakh fatalities in road accidents. But that number was disregarded by the World Health Organisation who estimates that the fatalities figure is closer to 3 lakh. This means that India accounts for a massive 23 per cent of the 1.35 million fatalities that occurred globally in 2018. The Institute of Road Traffic Education or IRTE estimates that almost 63 per cent of the 1.5 lakh fatalities occur on national and state highways where traffic law enforcement is more or less non-existent. About 11 per cent of fatalities happen in 50 cities of India which have a population of more than 10 lakh people. So, if India's traffic woes are to be solved, there needs to be a focus shift on highways and road environment. Simply, increasing traffic fines will not be enough to combat the problem.


(The Delhi Traffic Police collected up to 40 per cent more amount by way of traffic fines in 2018, over 2017)

To give you an example, the Delhi Traffic Police collected a total of ₹ 64.8 crore as traffic violation fines in 2017, while in 2018, that figure went up to ₹ 105 crore in 2018. It was in 2017 that the Supreme Court appointed a Road Safety Committee which directed the Delhi Traffic Police to increase fines from ₹ 100 to ₹ 1,000 on offenses like speeding, jumping signal, using mobile phone while driving and so on. The Delhi Traffic Police took the necessary steps and the amount of violation fine collected went up by 40.2 per cent. The surprising fact here is that the number of road accident fatalities went up by 6.69 per cent from 2017 to 2018 as shown in the table below. This illustrates that simply increasing traffic fines by themselves are not enough to keep road accidents in check.

Year Traffic Fines In Crores Road Accident Fatalities
2017 ₹ 64.8 crore 1584
2018 ₹ 105 crore 1690

The other glaring fact is that a sizeable chunk of road traffic violations also happen because of faulty traffic signs. According to a study conducted by IRTE over 75 per cent of the traffic signage is faulty in Delhi. IRTE conducted the study on 14 major roads in Delhi, which covered 85 kilometres in total along with 1,514 traffic signals and signage. Of the traffic signage, at least 1,098 or 75 per cent of them were found to be faulty and not meeting the required standards. The study said the colour, size and shape code have been used interchangeably, which is not the correct way to go about it because it is making the road users cause traffic violations unknowingly.

You will be surprised to know that about 200 million traffic violations occur in Delhi by motorised vehicles. Yes! 200 million! Out of these, 23 per cent violations occur on account of faulty traffic signs and signals. The same can be said for other major cities in Delhi too. There are quite a few places in Delhi, which have road signage but at the wrong places. There are so many road junctions where there is a traffic sign which says pedestrian crossing, but there is no zebra crossing actually. This is potentially dangerous for pedestrians and motorists alike.

Whenever you see double white lines in the middle of the road, it signifies that the people cannot cross over to the other side. The double white line is equivalent of a divider in the middle of the road. You would be breaking the laws if you crossed the double white lines. The section 170A of the Motor Vehicle Act in Particular, which calls for a fine of ₹ 500. But what if the marking was in the middle of an intersection? Where there is a traffic signal with a signal that allows you to take a right turn on green? Well, you would still be technically breaking a traffic rule, with absolutely no fault of yours!

So, the government needs to look at this with a magnifying glass and take steps to improve the state of the roads and traffic signs in India along with increasing the amount for road traffic violations.

*Data Source: Institute of Road Traffic Education