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Insights into Editorial: Recognising altruism: On rewarding Good Samaritans on road

 

 

Introduction:

The initiative of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to award Good Samaritans who save lives of road accident victims with a cash prize is a welcome attempt to reduce India’s staggering annual death toll from mishaps.

Ranking third among 20 nations that have the highest number of accidents, India fares far worse on an important metric cases to fatalities ratio compared to the U.S. and Japan, which have more recorded crashes but fewer deaths.

The medical community states that more than 50% of accident victims die because they don’t receive treatment during the Golden Hour.

The Golden Hour is a time window during which an immediate medical intervention can prevent death. Only bystanders are capable of intervening during the golden hour.

 

Context:

  1. The Union government has launched a scheme for ‘Good Samaritan’ under which anyone who saves the life of a road accident victim by rushing them to a hospital within the “golden hour” will get a cash reward of ₹5,000, the Ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) said in a statement adding the scheme will be implemented from October 15.
  2. The term ‘golden hour’ generally refers to the one-hour time period following a traumatic injury.
  3. It is during this time period that the likelihood of preventing death by providing prompt medical care to the victim is the highest.
  4. During 2020, even with severely disrupted mobility due to COVID-19, National Crime Records Bureau data show 1,33,715 lives were lost in 1,20,716 cases attributed to negligence relating to road accidents.

 

Features and Guidelines of the scheme of Good Samaritan in Motor Vehicles Law:

  1. Under the Motor Vehicles law, a Good Samaritan voluntarily helps an accident victim with no expectation of payment or reward, and has no legal obligation to record his involvement or aid the investigation in the case.
  2. In spite of an entire chapter being added to the Motor Vehicles Act last year to sensitise police forces and hospitals on this, altruism is affected by the perception of harassment and legal complications.
  3. The Ministry’s latest move seeks to overcome reticence by rewarding socially minded individuals who offer immediate assistance and rush a victim with certain kinds of injuries to hospital, with ₹5,000 and a certificate of recognition for saving a life.
  4. In order to get the related data for the reward, the ministry will start a new portal, where every month the details of the name, address, mobile number, incident information, etc. of the citizen helping the injured will be entered on the portal by the district administration.
  5. Local police or Hospital trauma center staff will also be able to upload this information on the portal.
  6. State governments are responsible for the plan, with the Centre providing an initial grant, but the Union Transport Ministry will give its own award of ₹1 lakh each to the 10 best Good Samaritans in a year.
  7. Achieving a reduction in mortality on India’s largely lawless roads warrants determined action on several factors, beginning with scientific road design and standards, and zero tolerance enforcement.
  8. It was only on September 3 that the Centre notified the long-pending National Road Safety Board, with a mandate to formulate standards on, among other things, safety and trauma management, to build capacity among traffic police, and put crash investigation on a scientific footing.
  9. The law is not just for an accident victim. It is for any injured person on the road.
  10. The state government has to first allocate funds from the state budget to the health ministry that is the custodian of the law.
  11. Grievance redressal systems need to be set up to take penal action against those who do not abide by the law and harass the Good Samaritans or medical professionals

 

Good Samaritan Law impact:

Although it’s been five years since the passing of the judgement, it has been found that as per the statistics 84% of citizens have no clue about the existence of such a law.

And, nearly, 59% of the Good Samaritans were illegally detained at the police station and hospitals and were compelled to do the legal paperwork.

The lack of awareness among the general public is only leading to a misuse of the law by the law enforcement.

 

Objective of the scheme for ‘Good Samaritan’:

  1. The problem of road safety is multi-faceted and requires to be assessed from a much broader lens of understanding.
  2. There is a larger problem of law and order. Unplanned, flawed road design and engineering, road rage are other issues that need serious attention of policy makers.
  3. It has been found that bystanders often refrain from helping accident victims due to the fear of legal and procedural hassles.
  4. The legislation aims to give protection to Good Samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within the ‘golden hour’ and encourage people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment in the hands of police and investigations.

 

1.2 lakh people died in road accidents in 2020: NCRB:

  1. According to government data, India recorded 1.2 lakh cases of “deaths due to negligence relating to road accidents” in 2020, with 328 persons losing their lives every day on an average, despite the COVID-19 lockdown.
  2. As many as 92 lakh lives have been lost in three years in deaths due to negligence related to road accidents, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed in its annual ‘Crime India’ report for 2020.
  3. While 1.2 lakh deaths were recorded in 2020, the figures stood at 1.36 lakh in 2019 and 1.35 lakh in 2018, the data show.
  4. The country logged 1.35 lakh cases of “hit and run” since 2018, the report of the NCRB, which functions under the Union Home Ministry.
  5. On an average, there were 112 cases of “hit and run” reported across the country every day in the past year, according to the data. The cases of causing “hurt” by rash or negligent driving on public way stood at 1.30 lakh in 2020.
  6. The NCRB stated in the report that the country remained under complete lockdown from March 25, 2020 till May 31, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the movement in public space was “very limited”.

 

Conclusion:

The latest guidelines state that in case the Good Samaritan informs the police about the accident, the latter would provide an acknowledgement to the person after verifying details from a doctor on an official letter head.

The copy of the acknowledgement would then be sent to the appraisal committee formed at the district level under the chairmanship of the district magistrate by the concerned police station. Besides, a copy would be marked to the Good Samaritan.

As a steadily motorising country, the goal must be to reduce accidents and the ratio of deaths and injuries to cases.

The Good Samaritan plan can work well if District Committees tasked with awarding these individuals readily recognise their contribution, aided by the police, hospitals and RTOs.

Many more people will continue to be impelled by sheer altruism to help road users involved in a crash, and governments should get bureaucratic barriers out of their way.

Government should start with scientific road design and standards, and zero-tolerance enforcement for violations.