No Safety on our Roads
For quite some time now, Assam has been leading the country in the number of highway accidents. On any given day, there are road accidents leading to two or more deaths, and the number of injuries due to such accidents has also increased alarmingly. There are quite a few reasons for this, but we must be content to confine ourselves to three or four of the leading ones. One, of course, is the sudden access to smoother and wider highways without any education to young road users about how wider and smoother highways are to be used. This education is essential because wider and smoother highways provide incentives to much higher speeds. This is because the very sight of wider spaces makes motorists and motorcycle users think of greater room for escape from collision in a crisis situation. But things do not work that way in real-life situations. What makes it difficult to escape collisions is much higher speeds made possible not only by smoother highways but also by more powerful engines. And we keep forgetting that many of today’s cars do not have bumpers. So seat-belts and air-bags are the only lean hopes for being able to survive a head-on collision. They work very well, but cannot be expected to produce miracles. But compounding the effect of smoother and wider highways as well as more powerful engines are the deleterious effects of alcohol and the lack of proper training in driving that are the more frequent factors of deaths in highway accidents. The conduct of proper driving tests in order to issue driving licences has become a sort of achronism. Almost everyone buys a driving licence these days by paying a bribe and skipping a driving test. So most of them have no familiarity with road signs and what are controllable speeds on our highways. For instance, they have no knowledge of what braking distances are at high speeds or that braking distances increase very sharply with even slight increases in speed. Unfortutely, the State administration is doing very little to do anything about the alarming rise in road accidents. It could at least begin by having very rigid breathalyser tests for drunken driving and by imposing speed limits even on our highways.