Skirting clear of political issues considering the logjam in parliament, Prime Minister rendra Modi in his weekly broadcast this Sunday, dwelt upon a topic that takes a heavy toll every year — the country’s dangerous roads. While several larger states have a horrendous record in road safety, Assam fares the worst among Northeast states as far as road accidents are concerned. Sharing his anguish at the very high casualty rates in road accidents, the Prime Minister spoke of introducing a ‘Road Transport and Safety Bill’ in parliament soon as well as implement a tiol road safety policy and action plan. A part of this action plan will provide cashless treatment to road accident victims in the first 50 hours beginning with a few selected places, and the scheme will be expanded in phases. A tionwide toll free number ‘1033’ will be introduced to inform authorities concerned about accidents. In fact, a draft of the proposed bill on road transport and safety was uploaded in the website of the Ministry of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping last September itself. The minister concerned, Nitin Gadkari, had then voiced the NDA government’s intention to ect comprehensive legislation on road safety, traffic magement and amending the Motor Vehicles Act by introducing best practices of some advanced tions. If the government does mage to get this legislation passed in the current session, it will not be a moment too soon. This is because travelling on the country’s roads is getting more dangerous every year.
The year 2014 saw an increase of 1.8 per cent in the number of road accidents over the year 2013, while the number of road fatalities was up by 2.9 per cent, according to figures released by the tiol Crime Records Bureau. Of the total number of accidental deaths in the country, nearly two-fifth (39.2 per cent) was due to road accidents. In absolute numbers, a total 1,41,526 people died on the country’s roads last year, which was more than four thousand deaths higher compared to 2013. The major cause of road fatalities was dangerous driving and overtaking at high speed, while a significant number died while driving under the influence of liquor or drugs. The unwillingness to wear helmets or seat belts and follow basic safety rules proved fatal in many cases. Along with this was heavy collateral damage, with pedestrians, bicyclists and others paying with their lives for the rashness of drivers. Most of these lives were thus needlessly lost due to human error, the same tragic pattern repeating year after year. Prime Minister Modi spoke of an accident taking place every minute and a death due to such cause every four minutes in the country, with one-third of the victims in the age group of 15-25 years. Overall, 16 people are dying in road accidents every hour. Vehicles with low structural strength and lacking basic safety features like air bags; roads with unscientific curves, speed breakers, lighting and ditches; lax traffic policing and malfunctioning traffic sigls — all combine to complete a picture of utter mayhem on the country’s roads. Assam is paying a high price too, accounting for a majority 3,212 of the total 4,037 road accident deaths in the Northeast last year.