Road Safety In India: What Plagues India’s Motorists?

As per Autocar, UK road traffic is at an all-time high this year. Still, if you compare, the average speed in the UK has only reduced from 60.6 MPH to 59.5 MPH, which is still 95.7 kmph. The average speed in India is only 22.7 kmph, as per Team-BHP’s ‘Ola Insights‘. The average speed in India is not even half of what it is in the UK.

I feel that this is a very big reason behind the frustration of the people, and is what might push them to disobey traffic rules, just to gain a couple of minutes while in transit. That might also be the reason behind why we, in India, have the highest rate of road accidents due to over-speeding.

According to a report by office commute platform MoveInSync:

  1. In Bengaluru, the average one-way commute of 15 km is covered in 49 mins
  2. In Chennai, the average one-way commute of 21 km is covered in 50 mins
  3. In Delhi-NCR, the average one-way commute of 20 km is covered in 60 mins
  4. In Hyderabad, the average one-way commute of 18 km is covered in 50 mins
  5. In Mumbai, the average one-way commute of 17 km is covered in 55 mins
  6. In Pune, the average one-way commute of 16 km is covered in 50 mins

With our cities getting bigger and bigger every day, one can expect that the commuting distance will increase within cities. What we need is safe and fast ways to travel. If people are only travelling at an average speed of 18-20 kmph and spending an average of two to three hours daily while commuting, how can we expect people to maintain a work-life balance? This results in the happiness index going down and the frustration index going up.

On the basis of data collated from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi-NCR, it has been found that the average travel speed across these 6 cities takes two minutes and 26 seconds for the Indian IT sector to cover a distance of just one kilometre.

We need predictable behavior on the roads and stress-free driving, which would prevent accidents and fatalities. It’s high time for Indians to start thinking about how to prevent road accidents in the country. The conditions of the roads are also in a bad state in almost every part of the country.

India is the global leader in terms of road accident-related fatalities. Data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways stated that 1,50,785 people died in the country in 2016. In other words, approximately 12% of the world’s road fatalities happen on India’s roads.

In 2017, road accidents in India decreased by merely 3.27% with 4,64,910 road crashes as against 4,80,652 in 2016. Fatalities resulting from these accidents saw an even smaller drop—just 1.9%. As many as 147,913 persons died in road crashes in 2017, against 1,50,785 in 2016. The proportion of those who get injured is nearly three to four times higher.

Who is to blame? People who drive at high speed, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or without a helmet are indeed responsible for the high number of deaths in road accidents. But, factors such as pathetic road conditions, poor vehicle conditions, poor visibility, and poor road design and engineering, which includes the quality of materials and construction, can’t be overlooked. Piyush Tewari, the CEO of SaveLife Foundation, a road safety NGO, has also said that road design and engineering are the least questioned when it comes to road accidents.

Fatalities Due To Road Accidents In 2016:

Reasons for the accident Number of people died
Exceeding Lawful Speed 73896
Overtaking 9562
Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol 6131
Driving On The Wrong Side 5705
Jumping the Red Light 4055
Use Of Mobile Phones 2138
Physical Fatigue 1796
Other Improper Actions 17943
Not Wearing A Helmet 10135
Not Wearing A Seatbelt 5638

According to the above data, over-speeding is the factor that has caused the maximum number of deaths. Everyone will agree to the facts on paper, but, I would say that the reasons for crossing the speed limit might also be because:

  1. They don’t know what the speed limit is.
  2. They aren’t sensitised about adhering to the rules.

The first reason could be the biggest factor: how many of us know the speed limit near our house or office? Reason two is also a major factor, but after seeing the effects of well-handled marketing in the Swachh Bharat movement, I am sure people could be sensitised.

I feel that the first reason mentioned above can be attributed to a mix of gaps in infrastructure and rules. Infrastructure and rules both go hand-in-hand. When I am talking about infrastructure, it should be built in such a way that it allows the rules to be followed seamlessly, and when I am talking about rules, they should be easy to understand and easy to follow practically. For example, if there is a U-turn after 50-100 metres, drivers will be able to follow it, what if the U-turn is one or two km away? People will go the wrong way to save time.

In India, we are still building roads with no proper marking, no proper entry, and exit markings. People often use the gaps between broken barricades, broken walls to take diversions. No traffic lights, dark roads with potholes, unpredictable speed breakers make Indian road extremely frustrating to drive on.

We need a proper system to formulate rules. These should be simple steps, like if you need to take a left-turn –

  1. Check the left mirror
  2. Switch on the signal for a left-turn
  3. Get into the extreme left lane on the road
  4. Turn left

Most people in India are aware of some rules only. Easy to follow, step-wise traffic rules will make driving predictable and safe.

For the second reason why people exceed the speed limit, we need a national-level marketing campaign for road safety. Why is the Clean India initiative an apparent success? Because it has been marketed very carefully. The country’s prime minister, through national television, appeals to people to clean their areas. He posts videos and photos of himself cleaning the streets. This forces people to fight for their rights to live in a clean environment.

Similarly, a national level campaign is required for road safety. There should be very simple rules, which need to be displayed in the local languages throughout India. I am writing some very basic rules, which could prevent frustration. These are not even rules, just some basic actions along with common sense.

  1. Don’t overtake if there is traffic ahead. People don’t buy 1200 CC cars to drive on the speed of 10 km/hour. There must be some problem ahead, either road condition is poor, traffic, etc. Overtaking vehicles in these conditions makes the traffic worse.
  2. Don’t take a left-turn from the extreme right lane. Get into the lane before you need to take the turn, even if you need to drive slowly for a while.
  3. If someone is taking a right-turn don’t overtake that vehicle. Overtaking a turning vehicle is dangerous and it blocks both sides of the road. This shows that the person overtaking has no knowledge of the results of his actions.
  4. If the vehicle in front is taking a left-turn, don’t overtake from the left side. This is extremely dangerous because it results in the vehicle being blocked between the road, and blocks the way for a lot of people.
  5. If you driving a slow-moving vehicle, drive to the extreme left. When you get a chance, stop for a while and let the traffic go. If this happens regularly, people will stop overtaking a slow-moving vehicle in a bad way.
  6. Don’t overtake if the condition of the road is very bad or narrow. There might be some obstacles on the road, so drive slowly.
  7. While starting the car, always check the mirrors, and wait for enough room to get on the road
  8. Always use the indicator and signal, for any turn and even if you want to stop at the side of the road.
  9. Don’t use the full beam when there are no lights on a single-lane road. It makes visibility extremely difficult for the vehicle coming from the opposite direction.

There might be some more simple rules which we can bring to the notice of the people. We need to identify those rules, as the abovementioned points are just a few examples. We need to display these at every corner, society, road-side restaurants, broadcast the rules on the radio or television, to make people aware that such small steps can help reduce their own commute time, and can save lives.

We need to make roads safe, and at the same time, need to improve the average speed of transit as well. Spending time in traffic is huge loss for the country’s workforce.

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Featured Image Credit: Getty Images
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