Why Road Accidents Showing A Rising Trend
When one hears about maintaining safety on roads, three “E’s” should come to mind automatically- Engine, Engineering and Enforcement. First one would denote, a vehicle should have an engine in good running condition, second one means condition of road should be smooth while the third one calls for adequate traffic police arrangement. With the passage of time, one more” E”, that is Education & Awareness has been added. One can create awareness about road safety through school & college students, NGO’s, Self Help Groups and Panchayats.
Roads Necessary for Progress
If we look at the growth of roads, the USA is having the best and biggest network. Why only the USA ,elsewhere in developed world too, construction of highways & other roads would precede various development works. In the developing world, however, the picture is just reverse. As a result, it becomes a challenge for the Government or any authority. Not only people raise objections but Courts too intervene, at times. Hence, projects get delayed leading to additional estimates and expenditure.
Progress of A Decade Plus Noteworthy
In India despite taking remarkable initiatives in this fast developing sector, especially for ten to fifteen years, people in general are found lacking what is called road sense. In hills, due to narrowness and steep slopes, traffic is relatively slow as compared to plain areas. In the same way, there will be variance in building and maintenance costs, signage, lighting etc. But widening of roads along fragile mountains deserves a review. In hills, better road upkeep assumes more importance as reliance on it is total for undertaking and sustaining development initiatives. Schemes like “Char Dham” Road project in Uttarakhand, however, go one step forward in causing more damage to nature.
Accidents On A Rise
When it comes to accidents in India, in 2021 alone, 4,03,116 accidents were recorded. Of these, maximum took place along National highways. Coming to casualties , 1,33,201 people lost their lives in 2020 and this number rose to 1,55,622 in 2021. Such a rise is surprising as this was the period of Covid pandemic, so less movement of traffic ought to have taken place.
In our country, on an average, 426 lives get lost on a daily basis, hence, 18 lives are lost every hour. These are on higher side.
Fatal accidents caused supposedly by involvement of actor Salman Khan(resulting into death of one and life long injuries to four), one Pereira, infamous BMW car accident of Delhi( leading to six deaths) and more recent one on new year day in Delhi can not be erased from our memory so easily. A number of people have been crushed perhaps due to drunken driving but the culprits get away with relatively lenient punishments.
In the accident on New Year day, the victim was hit and dragged for more than thirteen kms. Though the horrific mishap happened late at night, it was unfortunate that nine P.C.R.vans failed to catch the car.
One recent accident leading to death of a famous business head led to making of seat belt on the rear seats compulsory.
If one looks at the causes of accidents, most of these take place due to human error. We, as users of road and drivers, do not learn from our own mistakes or the ones committed by others, day in and day out. To be specific, main causes would be, over speeding, drunken driving, distractions to drivers, jumping of red lights, avoidance of safety gears, such as, seat belts and helmets , non-adherence to lane driving and over taking in a wrong manner. One fatal accident takes place every four minutes in our country and trucks and two wheelers alone contribute to forty percent of the accidents. Some injuries are so severe that the family has to suffer for no fault of theirs. Cases drag on for years and at the end, the high and mighty get away easily.
It is accordingly felt that over-speeding, together with stringent punishment for drunken driving, deserve to be given more attention. As these affect level of concentration, any kind of misfortune caused has to be avoided. While good quality helmets may be need of hour for the two wheelers, these need to be tied and worn too in a proper way. At the level of drivers too, following distractions shall have to be avoided in public interest – adjusting rear view mirror while driving, non- playing of music, alertness for avoiding crossing of animals on the road and avoiding banners and billboards within city limits.
In the same way, the condition of roads too deserve utmost care and attention. As one pays annual road tax, these should be free from pot holes, and drains, culverts and small bridges need to be repaired regularly. Wherever two roads merge / meet, adequate care shall have to be taken and presence of a highway police, along with the first aid facility has to be there along the newly built Expressways.
Also immediate focus would be necessary at the time of flood, land slide, fog, snow, wind storms etc.
Post Accident Situation
It has to be made known to everyone that the first hour or Golden Hour after the accident is very crucial for saving a life or for reducing the impact of an injury. One out of six persons is reported dead on the way either due to traffic jams or the long distance to nearest health facility. Proper handling of injured persons by the trained policemen and voluntary agency personnel has to be ensured before specialised treatment begins in a Trauma Centre or a hospital. Panic, which is natural under the circumstances, needs to be avoided.
Minimum safety standards for the vehicles, roads and users of road may have to be prescribed, apart from improvement in the city and highway traffic management system through adding to the number of CCTVs. After all, rate of growth of vehicular traffic has crossed 20%, already.
It is high time we also had ” No Traffic Zones” in every city as such steps in European countries have reduced accidents as also level of pollution.
To conclude, we all should work for avoiding accidents by following speed limits, giving up drunken driving, using helmets and seat belts, taking care of vehicle’s and road lights, obeying traffic rules and above all , avoiding use of Cell phones while driving. The last named phenomenon or habit is very dangerous from road safety viewpoint. We need to realise this as fast as possible.
But, ARE WE READY?
(The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)