Without having to go into statistical details, one can state a rather regrettable fact about India’s highways. They are the venues of the highest number of fatal accidents in the world in terms of the percentage of such deaths to the population. This is largely because of factors like improved highways, speedier vehicles, speed-loving motorists and the ease with which one can secure driving licences without having to go through any driving tests. Considering that one can get a driving licence through bribery alone, one can say that in India it is possible to buy driving licences. This is the most important and deplorable factor that contributes to highway accidents in India. There was a time when driving tests in India were strict and meticulously conducted. Ironically enough, those were days when the vehicle density was less than a tenth of what it is today. It is in this context that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s promise of reducing road accidents by 50 per cent in just two years comes as a message of hope. And yet one cannot help wondering how Gadkari proposes to achieve this miracle. It is unreasoble to expect him to compel motorists to reduce speed by having a large number of speed breakers on our highways and expressways. Such a course of action will cause the loss of all our highways because they would cease to be highways. If anything, we need to have smoother and wider highways with more lanes so that vehicles have to remain on highways for shorter lengths of time. What needs to be promoted is fast but safe driving by sober drivers. To ensure this, the authorities will have to pay greater attention to far more rigid and compulsory driving tests and severe punishment of drunk drivers such as permanent cancellation of driving licences.
Reducing Road Accidents