About 400 lives are lost everyday in road ‘accidents’ in India. That’s more than 150,000 people in a year. Such figures should not qualify to be accidents, rather they should be called murders. The causes working behind these fatalities are numerous and these can be prevented at many stages. But, the collective ignorance by citizens as well as the government has made road safety issues one of the most prominent causes of death in India.
According to a report, 1214 road crashes occur everyday in India and two-wheelers are responsible for 25% of such crash-related deaths. Poor quality of roads,traffic jams, road rage, under-age driving, driving under the influence of alcohol are some of the prime issues which make it important to reflect upon the current situation.
The victims of such accidents are mostly vulnerable road users – motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists. Inadequate knowledge about road safety rules, the tendency to disobey traffic signals, etc. indicate the lack of awareness among citizens. The psychology of a Indian road user also functions very differently altogether.
While driving on the road, people do not care about pedestrians. Similarly, people driving heavy vehicles have no respect for cars, bikes, scooties plying on the road. There is always a need seen among these road users to rush, overspeed and overtake.
On one hand, we have road safety rules and on the other, there are road ethics to be considered as well. But, for us everything is like a child’s toy: the road, the vehicle, our own safety and even someone else’s life.
Imagine 400 deaths happening everyday due to a plane crash. Would we consider the situation as casually as we consider deaths on the road? In terms of ranking, cities like Delhi, Chennai, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Mumbai account for highest road deaths respectively. Speeding, drunk-driving, reckless driving, not wearing helmets are some of the main causes of accidents in these cities. On top of it, under-age driving is a major issue.
According to a Times of India report, six out of ten Indians never go through a driving license test to obtain the document! The same is being done to obtain drivers licenses for heavy transporting vehicles like trucks and lorries.
Rapid motorisation, inadequate infrastructure and ineffective legislation and enforcement altogether contribute to road accident fatalities. However, road planning and design in India mostly fails to take into consideration the needs of these users. Provisions for pedestrians either do not exist and even if they do, they are not up to the mark and often unsafe. While two-wheelers make up approximately 76% of urban traffic, no effort is made to segregate these from bigger vehicles.
Some of our roads are delicate enough to create potholes that could gulp down entire cars. Corrupted engineering of roads is so normal in India that potholed roads in rural and urban areas do not frighten the users anymore, rather they have evolved with adaptive skills for being able to jump, slide and dive while they drive.
To combat the existing problems we face while being on the road in India, these are a few suggestions:
1. Starting from building the roads to using the roads, everything must be carefully designed and implemented. The construction companies who tend to build poor quality roads in order to pocket a large chunk of government money can be easily identified and held responsible. No negligence in construction of road construction should be acceptable.
2. Not just quality, but innovative ideas should also be adopted in order to make these roads user-friendly. We don’t need just a paved pathway but a wisely engineered road network which accommodates pedestrians, cyclists, bikers, heavy vehicle drivers and everyone (except animals) in a smart way.
3. The license for driving should not be considered as a joke. Proper and mandatory tests are not a choice but a necessity. Vehicles in the hands of under-aged youth can be fatal. Parents need to act strict enough and not hand over vehicles to kids who don’t hold licenses.
4. Traffic police should debar themselves from accepting bribes from culprits. Strict punishment for disobeying traffic rules and proper education of such can prevent road deaths to a significant extent.
The road to a developed country shall remain unpaved until we invest in every aspect of nation building. Roads are one such thing. It’s time that both the government and citizens are held equally accountable.