Can the Government adopt these four ideas to save lives on Indian roads?
“Just like old currencies, driving licenses can be cancelled and reissued, not overnight but in a phased manner. Government should improve the training module, use more simulators in their upcoming driver examination centres, 2000 of which are planned, and reissue all the licenses fresh”
It is not difficult to understand the reality of Indian transport system when the Minister concerned himself shares his concern over one-third of Indian driving licenses being fake. So what about the But thats just one third of the actual problem, rest of the two-thirds equally problematic. Many of us have had friends with bizarre and at times interesting stories about RTOs.. how they got their license or licenseS (one from Delhi, one Ghaziabad and one from Bihar, for just in case kind of cases), how one friend went for motorcycle license and came back with complimentary LMV License too (for cars and jeeps etc) or an aunt who sat in the bus outside RTO (and not for the test) provided by the driver training school and license was delivered to her. We all have heard the stories about different currency notes for different forms, dependable-honest ‘dalaals’ and funny driving tests which tested almost everything except the skill. But the other end of these stories are rather tragic where we are losing almost 1.5 lac people on Indian roads, around 4.5 lacs injured in 2015. Major chunk of these accidents are attributed to drivers’ fault.
India is also a signatory to Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety 2015 and the government is trying to halve the number of people killed on the streets in India by 2020. This goal looks tough, if we see the trend. Globally the number of people being killed in road accidents has saturated after 2007, according to WHO, but in India its still going up. So what can we do ? Among other things, Government can also focus on Driving Licenses. Removal of fake licenses, improvement of driving skills and address the issue of corruption.
1. License ban?
Experts are still not too sure about the impact and effect of ‘Notebandi’, except the political one, but the learnings and experience from that experiment can help save some lives in the country. Just like old currencies, driving licenses can be cancelled and reissued, not overnight but in a phased manner. Government should improve the training module, use more simulators in their upcoming driver examination centres, 2000 of which are planned, and reissue all the licenses fresh. This will require lots of money, but according to one estimate we lose almost 3% of Indian GDP due to road accidents, so we spending on prevention is better bet I guess.
2. License – Renewal time limit
The validity of driving licenses should be reduced. The timeframe for renewal of licenses should be down to five to seven years. The average traffic, speed, vehicles and driving needs are changing every day, Our driving abilities too change with age. License renewal intervals should be considered.
3. Different categories – different licenses Once upon a time our traffic meant Ambassador-Premier Padmini or Bajaj and LML scooters cycles and cycle-rikshaws, not anymore. Our traffic is anything but homogenous now. According to an estimate, around 49 types of vehicles run on Indian roads now. All the global brands are here, officially or imported, cars and motorcycles of any kind, from under ten BHP engines to thousand BHP ones. We all know we need different kind of skills for Alto and Ferrari or Hero Splendor and Hayabusa. We have to categorize the licenses accordingly, so we don’t automatically get a license, we earn it.
4. Outsourcing of Driving License Authority If the current licensing setup is so unsuccessful, why not look at it in a new manner ? Why can’t we look at outsourcing of all this ? There are many independent bodies, associations, private companies and drivers training academies, working on mobility, driver training and road safety, why not authorise them to issue driving licenses ? They can be made answerable for their drivers’ performance for sure, but can we involve more people in this setup who understand driving and are serious about SAFETY.
The goal of reducing the number of road deaths by half is a difficult one, by 2020, really difficult. With some difficult steps we can move in that direction but we have to start moving first.