Harsh realities of road safety

The public attention span on road safety is very short and evaporates soon after a fatal road mishap.
Harsh realities of road safety

The public attention span on road safety is very short and evaporates soon after a fatal road mishap. The majority of them are not aware of the larger story of rising numbers of road accidents and road fatalities in India or in their respective states. The observance of Road Safety Month from January 15 to February 14 brings an opportunity to end the public disconnect with the harsh realities of road safety on Indian roads and the role they can play to raise the safety bar. According to World Bank estimates, India loses 3.14% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is calculated to be Rs 5.96 lakh crore, due to road accidents. Official data shows that in 2022, 4.6 lakh road accidents occurred, which claimed 1.68 lakh lives and left about 4 lakh seriously injured. Road accidents have risen by 12%, while road fatalities have increased by 10% in the country. On average, 53 road accidents and 19 deaths occur every hour in the country. The situation is alarming and calls for drastic measures to reduce both accidents and fatalities to save lives and check socio-economic losses. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has underscored the need for a 50% reduction in road accidents and fatalities by 2030. He has attributed the rising accidents to faulty road engineering and blamed defective detailed project reports for road construction projects. Ironically, he has been flagging the issue for the past couple of years, and why it has remained unaddressed is baffling. He has also been warning engineers and consultants involved in faulty road design that crashes have occurred due to faulty road engineering. Data related to road accidents available in the public domain, however, does not indicate in how many accident cases the government has initiated action against engineers or consultants involved in faulty road designs that led to road fatalities. While speaking at a conclave on road safety organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries, Gadkari flagged another crucial issue: the poor eyesight of a large section of drivers due to cataracts in their eyes, which is one of the major reasons for rising road accidents. This is a systemic issue that can only be addressed by stringent rules, including routine eye checks of drivers of public transport, goods carriers, and passenger vehicles. Owners of private vehicles also voluntarily get the eyes of their drivers checked for any impaired vision, which is crucial for improving the safety standards of all vehicles on the road. Automobile companies collaborating with eye hospitals and eye care centres to organise free eye checking camps can help address the problem, and such centres can also play a crucial role in raising awareness of safe driving and road safety measures. Another yawning gap in road safety is that drivers of most public transport do not have any training from a professional driving institute. Government legislation authorising any driving training institute to be run by an automobile company to impart training and issue certificates after completion of training is laudable. Instead of waiting for any private entities to start such a professional driving training institute, states can start their own training institutes so that the issue of a shortage of trained drivers can be addressed urgently. Official estimates say there is a shortage of 22 lakh drivers in the country, and if the shortfall is met by drivers lacking any formal training and proper knowledge of road safety, then the target of reducing accidents and fatalities will remain unachieved. In addition to initiatives to address the issues of road engineering and driver training, raising the awareness level among the general public on road safety deserves greater attention than just bringing out posters, billboards, and events on road safety during the month-long awareness drive. Despite strict enforcement and a sustained awareness drive on helmet wearing, many parents are seen rushing to drop in or bring their children from school on two-wheelers without helmets. If the children grow up having seen their parents driving without helmets and also make them pillion riders without helmets, it becomes difficult for such children to realize the importance of the road safety awareness programme he or she attended in their educational institution. School authorities reminding parents to follow the road safety rules in routine parents’ meetings and also when they come to drop their children can help raise the awareness level. If the safety guidance highlighted during awareness programmes is not practiced by vehicle owners, then the observance of road safety for weeks or months will remain a ritualistic event without any tangible outcomes. Only when people start looking at the larger picture of huge socio-economic losses beyond the accidents they have come across or the loss of family members, relatives, or friends can increasing the level of awareness and improving road safety become a reality in India.

Top Headlines

No stories found.
Sentinel Assam