"Prevention is better than cure" "Speed thrills but it also kills" .How many times have we heard these road safety slogans but decided to ignore them according to our convenience?
The analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that about 1347 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian Roads. It further reveals that 57 accidents take place and 17 lives are lost every hour on an average in our country There is a pressing need to recognize the dangers posed by road accidents, reduce them and take steps towards improving road safety.
The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2016(which has now lapsed) advanced some major changes to improve the road safety policy and laws in India; however it failed to recognize and address some pertinent measures which are needed for a wholesome and well-rounded law which can actually improve road safety.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the need for a detailed Accident Information Report. The Accident Information Report serves a dual purpose it acts as a detailed report for motor vehicle accident claims and helps in determining the cause of the accidents to take preventive measures.
Detailed Accident Information Report
The Motor Vehicles Act, as it stands in its current form, fails to recognize the need for a detailed Accident Information Report. Currently accidents are not investigated scientifically and the data is derived from the First Information Reports prepared by the police under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which have no detailed account to specifically address the need of determining how and why the accident occurred. Thus, this limited scope of investigation fails to scientifically unravel the causes of the accident.
The Accident Investigation Report (Form 54) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 which is used currently falls short on various aspects as it does not contain any information which can help analyze the data scientifically. The form requires the police to note only the details of the parties involved in the road accident.
The intention to incorporate a detailed accident information report can be seen in The Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014. The Bill, in section 3 (6) defines "Detailed Accident Information Report" as the report to be filed by the Investigating Officer under section (242) of this Act". The Bill, in Schedule IV further goes on to provides for a format for detailed Accident Investigation Report which contains specifics such as road system, the road character, environment condition, vehicle type among many other specifics. This format is an improved version of the Accident Information Report (Form 54) and contains several specifics which can be useful both for accident investigation and for claims in the tribunal for road accidents.
The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2016 has incorporated a provision for information to be given regarding an accident under Section 159. The section reads as "The police officer shall, during the investigation, prepare an accident information report to facilitate the settlement of claim in such form and manner, within such time and containing such particulars and submit the same to the Claims Tribunal and such other agency as may be prescribed."
However, it does not provide for a procedure, format, form or any guideline for the same in the Bill. Road safety prevention measures such as analyzing causes or road crashes and rectifying those measures are a part of the 'Safe Systems Approach' which views road safety through a holistic approach for improving road safety. It recognizes that accidents don't happen only because of drivers' fault, but are due to numerous factors that may be outside the control of the driver. The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to road accidents as road crashes. These road crashes result in Road Traffic Injuries which need to be recognized as a serious health issue which requires an adequate remedy.
Accident Investigation Agency for Road Accidents
The current Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 in Section 135 provides that the State Government by notification in the Official Gazette can make schemes for "(a) an in-depth study on causes and analysis of motor vehicle accidents." The Amendment Bill of 2016 proposes to give this power to the central government as well, "(3) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make one or more schemes to conduct in-depth studies on the causes and analysis of road accidents." It also proposed to amends section 135 giving the central government the power to conduct an in-depth study of the road accident. Recording and analyzing the causes of road crashes and road traffic injuries play a quintessential role in understanding the reasons behind accidents and effective mechanisms to reduce them.
Road Accident Investigation Report should include a detailed account of the details of the accident and Road Accident Investigation should record how it could have been prevented. This data could then be stored and analyzed for trends and common linkages over a period of time and prove invaluable to map out targeted solutions. For instance, if there is a flaw in the manufacturing of the car by the company, the same could be determined by the road accident investigation agencies report. Currently, no such data repository exists and hence questions of common patterns in road accidents remain unanswered. Due to the lack of such data and investigation mechanisms almost all accident are attributed to be caused due to driver negligence.
India is a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration 2010 and is obliged to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities caused by road accidents by 2020 by half. Incorporating detailed accident information reports, analyzing data collected in these reports and taking corrective action can go a long way in helping India achieve the target in the Brasilia Declaration.
(Aparajita Amar is a lawyer and one of the members of WHO Legal Development Programme on road safety. She is also the founder of SHLC – a digital platform providing consultation and advisory services to help organizations to comply with the sexual harassment law in India. Views are personal)