Over 70 per cent of the country’s private vehicles, mostly two-wheelers do not have a valid insurance policy, said former Supreme Court judge KS Radhakrishnan, who is head of a Committee on Road Safety, constituted by the SC to implement road safety laws. Realising this to be one of the impediments in providing immediate care and assistance to road accident victims, the committee has given three months to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to identify these vehicles and report compliance.
“It is an alarming situation that more than 70 per cent of vehicles in the country have no insurance cover or the insurance policy has lapsed,” said Justice Radhakrishnan. A meeting with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and MoRTH officials was called by the committee on May 12 and the issue was discussed at length. “We asked the Government to hold meetings with the departments concerned, identify these vehicles, and report to us in three months,” he added.
The other two members of the committee, former Transport Secretary S Sundar and traffic engineering expert Nishi Mittal, pointed out that the absence of a valid insurance policy made it impossible for victims to claim compensation. Adding to the problem, police stations do not have a mechanism to report road accidents to the concerned insurance company for fast processing of claims.
“There is no proper coordination between departments within the Government - be it police, health, or insurance,” the committee said. A classic example of this lack of coordination is visible in the figures of road accident deaths compiled by the Centre and States. With regard to the total number of people killed on the roads in 2013, the committee received a figure of 1,37,572 from the Centre. But the same data collected individually from each State added up to 1,42,011. “This discrepancy is because road safety is not on the States’ agenda. To start with, we must have uniform statistics on road deaths across the country,” said former Transport Secretary Sundar.
The committee, which has its task cut out to identify lapses in implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act regarding road safety has decided to first focus on five key areas, institutional arrangements, engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency. It has held two rounds of meetings with States and Central Government departments and has rolled out 13 recommendations to be adopted and complied with fully by all States by June 30, 2015. Most of these recommendations are provided in MV Act 1988, but are yet to be realized even after two decades.