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Better Civic Sense Could Help Make For Safer Roads In India

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Safer Roads for YouEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #SaferRoadsForYou, a campaign by Safer Roads for Gurugram and Youth Ki Awaaz to understand the behaviour of road users and advocate for the importance of road safety. Join this conversation and tell us about your experience on Indian roads here.

Road safety has been a serious concern for years now, and it was finally in 2015 that India signed the Brasilia declaration with a strong commitment to reduce road accidents and fatalities almost by half. However, it is saddening to share the statistics of the last few years as their downfall has been substantial.  The road crashes showed a minimal reduction of 1.9% between 2016 and 2017 while the number is further marred by only a 1.1% decrease in case of people dying due to such mishaps. If we have to put such fatalities into perspective, India, on an average, loses one small town every year which is equivalent to 1.3 lakh deaths (Source: population as per census 2011, ministry of road transport and highway).

Beyond Policy

The question that comes to my mind is that where do we actually stand today as far as this very fundamental right to life when road safety is concerned? From where I see, more than the policy creation and implementation it is extremely important to educate everyone about road safety, traffic rules etc. Putting it straight, it is high time we restart from scratch.

Point (vii) under the national road safety policy focuses on road traffic safety education and training. Interestingly, they are not enforced in the most appropriate manner and even more, not observed and implemented by the authorities themselves; in question are the traffic police who are unable to do so considering the basic traffic rules. This comes from my own personal experience of being duped by the traffic police towards the end of Badarpur flyover, sometime back. Crossing the toll, I started to drive, speeding between 60- 70 kmph. Ironically, I was asked to stop towards the end of the flyover by this police man for exceeding the speed limit. He told me the speed limit should be 50 kmph against which I had to give him Rs. 900 so I do not lose my driving license.

As per the speed norms, limit for 4 wheelers is 70 kmph and 50 kmph for two wheelers. That’s the state of our so- called saviors. Worse is the spot in which they position themselves in order to grab people exceeding the speed or maybe not. In lieu of catching the offenders, they block the complete route which takes a toll on the other office goers’ timing and the calm temperament with which they have been driving until then.

All this is beyond a few rules and policies but a lot more to do with one’s experience from the safety point of view, sincerity in one’s work and most importantly a person’s/ driver’s peace of mind thereafter.

Other Conditions And A Few Suggested Measures

Encroachment: The word encroachment commonly means illegal use of resources. In the case of roads, encroachment is occupying the government/ private land/footpath illegally. With increased urbanization, new sorts of encroachment can be seen, like using roads for illegal parking purpose, construction of religious structures on the road side, unauthorized construction on the roads, parking and auto stands that cause hindrance in pedestrian movement and traffic movement, encroachment by shopkeepers, hawkers/vendors. etc.

Considering all these problems which are majorly faced by the pedestrians, cyclists, etc. we need to come up with some very concrete and sustainable solutions. The main objective should be to provide suitable walkways for pedestrians, so that they may not require to walk on that area of the road that is meant for vehicular movement, causing hazard to themselves and to vehicular traffic also. It would help lessen the congestion on roads and vehicular chaos can be reduced to a large extent. Further steps could be towards the vehicles plying on street parking. These need to be removed or they can be relocated to the nearby parking lots or open spaces. Effective on-street parking results in less traffic and safer roads. Another way of reducing the problem of encroachment is by adjusting the road width which shall further reduce congestion on the roads. These and a few more resolutions can help mitigate the issue and better the problem of road safety.

Road Rage: Understanding An Individual’s Behaviour: India has one of the world’s highest accident rates. With more youth in the country getting behind the wheel, a study has found that accidents are mostly caused by impulsiveness, sensation-seeking, driving anger, vengeance and even proneness to boredom. Another very important component that is often ignored is the psychological aspect of the driver. The word ‘rule’ itself could sometimes hit so high to one’s mind that he turns into a rebel and end up violating the necessity of the hour, harming not only himself but also the person abiding to all the traffic and road safety rules. The other person could be observing every rule under the book but if the driver behind is not bothered, accidents and serious fatalities are obvious to take place. Least of all, driving under such circumstances could be stressful – even making one physically ill.

“If we can put ourselves in the shoes of other drivers, we are more capable of understanding their behavior and staying calm. If we can’t appreciate their situation, then we are more likely to get offended, angry and even rageful if their driving bothers us.” — Dr. Robert Nemerovski, psychologist specializing in anger and anxiety.
So how can one avoid becoming a road warrior, bring a stronger focus on driving habits and a shift in one’s attitude toward driving? These are few ways:

  1. Move over if someone is tailgating you.
  2. Use an “I’m sorry” gesture (e.g. wave) so to attempt to defuse the situation.
  3. Plan ahead; allow time for delays during your journey.
  4. Consider whether you’ve done something to annoy the other driver and adjust your driving accordingly.
  5. Use your horn sparingly.
  6. Avoid eye contact with angry drivers and give them plenty of room.

One’s road behavior is further evident when he/ she is on the other side of the table. Sharing my own experience on this was on one of the NCR highways. There was trail of cars back to back, I, being in the middle, another car in front of me and behind me was an Innova. Maintaining an appropriate distance, my car was rolling at a normal speed, when suddenly the car in front of mine turned left without applying brake or showing an indicator, which ended in a collision. The Innova driver thankfully turned his car towards the right, so I wasn’t hit from the back as well. An argument was obvious to happen, and I was scared.

Needless to mention, the driver ahead of me blocked my way, got down from the car and blamed me for the negligence. Right then, the Innova driver got down and to my realization was a senior defense official who had come to my rescue. While he was defending me, the trail started to build behind us, but I couldn’t move. People started shouting at us, passing comments like, “humein to ghar jaane do, aap log lad lo”; “ladki hai, waise hi ni gaadi chalaani aati hogi”; “iss buddhe ko kya ho gaya, kyu time kharaab kar raha hai”.

Doesn’t all this speak so much about one’s behavior, gender bias? Civic sense and a basic sense of compassion and kindness? All this while, they could have called the police and eased the matter for me.

Alertness Is The Key

Summing up many more such conditions, I have a few suggestions that could help save your life and many others’.
Obey traffic safety regulations. This could make a difference between life and death on the highway. The thumb rule is to exercise tolerance, alertness and respect other commuters’ rights. Speed might thrill but it kills more often.
Driving is a test of concentration.

  1. Don’t drive if you are drunk or are feeling sleepy.
  2. While you can enjoy the music in your vehicle, don’t get lost in it or in your mobile.
  3. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you as you could collide if the other driver is forced to apply sudden brakes.
  4. Obey signs and signals.
  5. Seat belts are meant to be used.
  6. Use standard helmets while riding two-wheelers and don’t carry more than one adult pillion rider.
  7. Do not carry persons on the bonnet of a motor vehicle.
  8. While walking, check all the sides before crossing the street.
  9. When there is no pavement, walk on the left facing traffic side.

 

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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