The Government of India is speaking about building international relationships, focusing on solving the agrarian crisis and infrastructural developments, coming up with numerous schemes pertaining to rural and urban development, sanitation and health, and many more. But what about resolving one of the fundamental issues – road accidents – which has been present over several decades. However, no definitive measure has been taken by both central and state governments including the urban local bodies to resolve this issue. There are concrete statistics available to justify this statement. In India, the total deaths due to road accidents is around 1,50,000 per year which is equal to 400 accidents per day. In 2017, road accidents led to 3 deaths every 10 minutes. Further, if you categorize these accidents based on the vehicles, then two-wheelers accounted for the highest share. However, compared to 2016 data, there has been a decline in road accidents by 3%, yet the numbers are large enough and a tremendous amount of work needs to be done.
The statistics provided here is as per Ministry of Road, Transport & Highways, 2017. The overall road accidents in 2017 accounted for 4,64,910 wherein 1,47,913 lost their lives and 4,70,975 faced severe injuries. Maximum accidents have happened on roads other than national and state highways which accounts for around 45%. These are the roads that are not properly planned and managed – usually found in cities. Further, the maximum accidents (50.5%) have happened in open areas based on the road environment. Considering road features, the maximum accidents (64.2%) have happened on the straight road. The contribution of potholes is 2% but the conversion rate to death is high which presents potholes as another major contribution after straight roads. Finally, if the impact of weather is considered, then the majority of the accidents have happened in clear/sunny weather (73.3%). This is due to the fact that the maximum time the weather is clear. But the next one in the list is the rainy season when the maximum road accidents have occurred. Adding to this, as per the report of UNESCAP, each year India loses 3% of its GDP due to road traffic accidents. This shows that road accidents is something worth giving attention to and has to be on the priority list of the country’s agenda.
People in India consider road accidents to be the most often a thing to happen and call it an unfortunate event or destiny rather than reacting towards it. This is due to the fact that nothing has been done to overcome this problem and it has been persistent for a long time. There are several causes associated to road accidents and a few of them include – over speeding, drunken driving, red light jumping, avoiding driving safety measures such as helmets and seat belts, using mobile phones, honking, lack of traffic sense, etc. These are man-made mistakes or carelessness that lead to accidents. On the other hand, issues pertaining to the lack of infrastructural facilities is something that is not in the control of the person driving such as poor pedestrian space, undivided roads, potholes, narrow roads, sharp road curvatures, etc. Comparing both the causes of road accidents, inadequate infrastructural facilities that have more contribution. Moreover, accidents due to inadequate infrastructural facilities are fatal injuries having the highest conversion rate to death.
Before coming to the specific alternatives, some of the basic solutions that should be implemented as an immediate action includes the following:
Infrastructural changes in ensuring that the vehicles are not very old, roads are made spacious, road safety signs are put in place and pedestrian crossing in well managed and divided.
Inculcating behavioural changes in people so that they do not drink and drive, follow road safety measures such as helmets and seat belt, do not use mobile phones, etc. These behavioural training should be made mandatory to complete within one month of issuing the driving licenses and further on it should be attended to every three months. This training should be not theoretical, it should have drama, role plays and simulation exercises to make the participants realize the real scenarios. It will bring a sense of critical consciousness among the people.
Strict rules and regulations must be followed by the people driving vehicles. In case someone doesn’t follow rules and regulations, there should be an automatic system to penalize the individual. The uniqueness of this process is that there is no human interaction involved which reduces/or makes corruption nil. This is possible by having cameras installed at all the major accident-prone areas and whenever any vehicle breaks the rule, the camera should read the number plates and automatically send a challan (also known as e-challan) to the vehicle owner. This is already implemented in some of the major cities but is not efficient in the way that there is no effective tracking system to ensure that the person has paid the fine.
So, to avoid such mishaps, it should be made mandatory to pay the fine within one week or else the vehicle registration will be cancelled.
Following are some of the specific alternatives that need technology, adequate planning, strategies and policy changes:
It is a well-known fact that cities usually have a lot of potholes, which gets exposed especially during rainy season and contributes to some of the fatal accidents. Even after this, the potholes are not repaired and whenever the local bodies are asked to provide justification, they respond by saying there is a lack of funds. To overcome this issue, the local governing bodies should make use of their advertising advantages. The cities are an attraction point for advertisements through hoardings. It should be mandated that any company advertising should take a specific stretch of the road and get rid of all the potholes on that stretch. This is a win-win situation that will reduce the burden on the local body and give more outreach to the advertising company.
Many of the accidents lead to death and a major reason for it is delayed medical support. With technology growing at a rapid pace, it should be utilized in dealing with such scenarios. One of the solutions can be to have an SOS system for road accidents. Usually, people refrain in supporting the person injured leading to his/her death. In such cases, if SOS is available, then there might be less ignorance and more lives could be saved. These SOSs must be installed at accident-prone areas.
Another use of technology can be to have a speed control on the vehicles. Now, in cases where road curvature is sharp, roads are narrow, the particular road stretch is accident prone, the rider of the vehicle should be notified with the optimum speed of the car. This can be done by connecting the car with GPS technology which should be already embedded by the car manufacturers.
It is common among heavy vehicles and long distance riders that they usually fall asleep while driving and end up facing major accidents. In such cases, a mechanism can be installed in the vehicles wherein if the eyes of the driver are closed for more than one minute (this can vary as per the need), then the speed of the vehicle starts reducing. This will prevent accidents, especially on national and state highways.
To conclude, there can be many more solutions, as the list is not exhaustive, what matters is the willingness to bring it in reality. Moreover, it is not the task of the government alone to solve this issue. People at large should join this movement of road safety as they all did in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.