Six out of every 10 people with a driving licence in India never actually sat behind a wheel to get it, according to a sample survey done across 10 cities, including the five metros, which have the highest vehicle population.
Just 12% of drivers in Agra got their licences the honest way, with 88% of the respondents admitting they did not give a driving test. The same goes for 72% drivers in Jaipur and 64% in Guwahati. About 54% in Delhi and half of the respondents in Mumbai too gave is mandatory test a miss.
The survey, conducted by road safety advocacy group SaveLIFE Foundation, comes at a time when the Rajya Sabha is set to discuss amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, which have been passed by the Lok Sabha.
The amendments provide for an IT-based driving test of applicants and a heavy fine for the possession of fake or more than one licence.
“It was appalling to note that 59% respondents admittedly did not give a test to get a driving licence… The licencing system in India is corrupt and inefficient, while the mandatory driver training system is non-existent,” says the report.
“There are 997 regional transport offices (RTOs) in the country issuing over 1.15 crore fresh or renewed driving licences every year. A rough calculation shows that, on an average, 40 licences are issued by each RTO on any working day and it can be as high as 130 licences per day in case of Delhi,” the survey says, clearly hinting at the hold that touts still have over the system.
A Supreme Court-appointed panel in 2014 had urged the apex court to come out with a direction that every designated officer issue not more than 15-20 driving licences a day since it’s humanly impossible to test the skill of 130-150 drivers daily.
It’s not just the common citizen, even members of the Lok Sabha could be on the list of offenders. This was indicated when road transport minister Nitin Gadkari while initiating the debate on the bill in April, asked how many MPs had appeared for a driving licence test, and barely a few hands went up.
The survey mentioned that in the absence of a mandatory driver training system, many in India drive without possessing the knowledge of certain key aspects of safe driving, like blind spots, safe distance, including the three-second rule, and thereby fundamentally putting lives at risk. The report said 80% of all road users feel unsafe and 82% of pedestrians feel the same while crossing a road or walking. In Kochi, 90% of respondents said they felt unsafe on the road.
Nearly half of the respondents admitted to having witnessed a fatal road crash. “Similarly, 31% respondents had a family member who was seriously injured in a road crash and 16% had a family member who was killed in a road crash,” the survey found. It is noteworthy that 91% respondents felt that a strong road safety law would help in reducing road crashes in India and 81% also stated that stricter penalties for traffic offences will help improve road safety.
“It is clear from the study that citizens are deeply concerned about their safety on the road. An overwhelming majority of them feel that a strong road safety law will help in improving the situation,” Piyush Tewari, founder and CEO of Save-LIFE Foundation said.