Road safety is a critical issue in today’s world, and it needs to be addressed at every level. In India, about one lakh people still lose their lives every year in road accidents. Along with the loss of human lives, the financial cost of these accidents burdens the country as well. In these accidents, the victims include not just the people who are driving way past the speed limit after drinking, but also the innocent bystanders. Our roads are unsafe, we all agree with that, but I wanted to know more. How safe do the most vulnerable people- the senior citizens and kids feel on Indian roads? I spoke about this to Gurpreet, a 74-year-old retired teacher living in Dilshad Garden, and Divya, an 8-year-old girl living in Chawri Bazaar along with her parents:
Conversation with Gurpreet.
Megha (M): Do you think our roads are safe?
Gurpreet (G): Rarely, and I don’t feel safe. Actually, I rarely go out alone, especially during the day. I do go out in the morning for a walk, but that’s really early, and there’s hardly any traffic.
M: What problems do you face on the roads?
G: Well, people aren’t considerate enough, they’re always in a hurry and don’t care if someone needs help. The other day I had to cross the road, and I stood on one side for ten minutes before a girl noticed and helped me cross the road.
M: So you think people are part of the problem?
G: Most of the times, yes. At times they don’t even care about their lives. They think that nothing bad would happen to them, but that’s what everyone thinks. Nobody presumes that something bad would happen to them today, yet accidents happen. This is why everyone should be very cautious.
Now let’s hear what Divya and her father think about this.
M: Do you go outside alone?
Divya (D): No. Mom and dad don’t let me.
Divya’s Father (DF): Well she is allowed to cycle close to home, while one of us is watching, but other than that, no it’s not safe.
M: So you just go outside with your parents?
D: Sometimes I go to the nearby shop to buy chocolates.
DF: Well yes, that she does, but to be honest even that’s scary. People really don’t care about not driving fast in residential localities. And sometimes it’s parents’ fault as well.
M: What do you mean?
DF: Well, just yesterday, a young teenager riding a scooter hit me while I was walking. Lots of people let their minor children drive, and they’re as much as danger to others as to themselves.
M: So Divya, your parents don’t let you go outside alone? If they did, what would you like to do?
D: Then I’d like to cycle alone.
So, this was my experience talking to Gurpreet and Divya, who both consider roads to be unsafe, to an extent that they can’t even safely access them. The question then is, what should be done to make people feel safer?
The solution to these problems would be our collective effort, as individuals, and society. We personally need to be responsible for traffic rules and regulations and help people if we can. As a society, the government needs to work on better roads and accessible options. Sidewalks, separate lanes, subways should be made and maintained properly. While framing policies and rules, one also needs to consider the needs of the most vulnerable road users such as senior citizens, disabled people. Only when our roads are safe for everyone, can we achieve our goals.