If you get hit by a two-wheeler, there is little chance of getting compensation. That’s because nearly 75% of two-wheelers in India run without insurance, putting vulnerable road-users like pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
The revelation, made by Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA), has prompted a Supreme Court-appointed committee on road safety to ask the agency and the transport ministry to work out a protocol for identifying such vehicles within three months and submit a report.
“IRDA representatives told us early this month that most two wheelers either have no insurance or their insurance has lapsed. Most of the owners don’t renew them since there is little enforcement,” said committee chairman Justice (retd) K S Radhakrishnan.
According to rough estimates, two-wheelers have a formidable presence on roads, constituting 70% of all vehicles in the country.
Around 82% of vehicles in India are privately owned and a majority of these are two-wheelers. In recent years, the number of two-wheelers has grown exponentially in rural areas where Two Wheeler Insurance papers are seldom checked by the enforcement agencies.
“Running an uninsured vehicle should be treated as a criminal act and there should be harshest of punishment since such people cannot play with the lives of others. The vehicle owner has the liability to pay the compensation for any accident. But in case he doesn’t have the capacity to pay compensation, the victim becomes helpless,” said S P Singh of IFTRT, a Delhi-based transport think tank.
A road transport ministry official said they had flagged this issue to IRDA about two years back and had asked it to integrate data of vehicles without third party insurance. “A couple of months back, we asked National Informatics Centre (NIC) to populate the state-wise data of such vehicles. Once it’s prepared, we will send them to states so that their law enforcement agencies can take action against such offenders,” he said.
Moreover, to put check on such offenders, the Road Safety and Transport Bill proposes very high penalty- impounding of uninsured vehicle and imprisonment of its owner.
Giving details of directions that the SC-appointed panel has issued to state governments, Justice Radhakrishnan said they have been asked to ban sale of alcohol along the national and state highways. “There should not even be a signage on the highway indicating location of such shops. We have asked them to take concrete action on dozens of issues by June-end. If they fail to comply, we will submit the details to SC.