Bringing back sanity on our roads

  • Prabhjot Singh Mand, IAS (RETD), Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Oct 13, 2014 15:06 IST

Every day we read about people dying in road accidents. Apart from this almost every one of us has faced road rage in one form or the other. The problem seems to be assuming alarming proportions. Day in, day out traffic regulations are flouted with impunity. The malaise is perhaps reflective of society’s changing attitudes.

Most people seem to be oblivious of the fact that a sizeable chunk of drivers are ignorant of the basic traffic norms. For instance, we seem to have forgotten one of the cardinal rules of the road in India – that a vehicle overtaking another must do so from the right hand side. Nobody knows when this well accepted norm was given the go-by and drivers began overtaking other vehicles from either side.

Similarly we have completely forgotten the concept of right of way and road conditions have now become a free for all. This is the single-most factor responsible for traffic jams, especially at roundabouts. About noise pollution, the less said the better.

Who is to be blamed for the mess we find ourselves in? The fault lies both with the enforcement agencies and the public at large. The fact of the matter is that there is no fear of law so far as road users are concerned. However, things seem to be a little better in Chandigarh where you find comparatively more effective enforcement. This may be on account of the fact that the UT administration’s traffic police is better equipped in terms of manpower and infrastructure.

The time has now come to take the bull by the horns. Some serious thinking is required at the highest level to take some meaningful decisions and to adopt a nononsense approach in implementing them. The proposed provisions in the draft Road Transport & Safety Bill, 2014 will certainly result in having laws with a more deterrent effect. In addition to this, the mindset of people has to be changed.

The first step in making our roads safe is to make it compulsory for schools to teach basic traffic rules to students. Also, the habit of lane driving should be inculcated. All the roads, wherever possible, should have three lanes with the left lane for slow moving traffic, the middle for faster traffic and the right for overtaking only.

It should be made mandatory for all motorists holding a driver’s licence to attend a prescribed number of camps or refresher courses in which their theoretical and practical knowledge of driving and that of the relevant traffic laws can be tested. Attendance at such camps or courses should be made a condition for renewal of driver’s licences. To enforce these measures an amendment in the Motor Vehicles Act can be made.

The steps suggested above are not exhaustive. It should be left to the authorities concerned to conduct an in-depth study of the chaotic traffic conditions prevailing today and come out with a comprehensive package to tackle this gargantuan problem before it is too late.

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