Indian Roads - Zero In On Safety
Right to life and safety is the fundamental right of any citizen. This is guaranteed under the constitution of every country in the world including India. However, more people die every year from road accidents all over the world than the number killed during the whole of the Second World War. Studies by World Bank have estimated that about 5, 00,000 people lose their life each year as a result of road accidents and over 15 million suffer injuries. About 70 percent of these occur in developing countries, particularly in African and Asian countries.
Newspapers in every metro city in India give a daily report of people killed and injured in traffic accidents. As a response to this heightened awareness, NGOs have come up in many cities to deal with this increasing urban epidemic of death and destruction. Police departments also hold road safety weeks, painting competitions, zero tolerance drives and demand greater powers to fine and punish. This has gone on for the last two decades. However, the killing and the maiming continue unabated.
A look at some of the statistics on road safety presents a very grim picture worldwide and especially in developing countries like India. Road fatalities now leads the list of accidental deaths in India much more than any other such as by drowning, fire, rail or air mishaps. The magnitude of road accidents in India is increasing at an alarming rate. About 60,000 people are killed every year in India and top the world in the number of road fatalities. National level of fatalities per kilometer is 0.025.
Road fatalities are due to a number of reasons, primary among them are bad condition of roads and traffic violations, poor implementation of various laws governing road traffic and safety issues, and last but not the least, the faulty engineering of road mechanics, may it be road design or traffic lighting etc. Furthermore, lack of awareness of road safety issues amongst the masses and apathy of the policy makers and implementers add to the increasing problem of road safety.
So, how do we start? First of all, we should select practical measures that are known to work in all situations and apply them locally. Second, we need to set up systems for collection and analysis of road accident data on a scientific basis suited for our socio-economic conditions. Then, these data can be used to fine tune policies and set up long term safety programs. It is high time our policy makers and vehicle manufacturers give more importance to science in road safety rather than PR for road safety.