Getting from one point to another on Indian roads is a daunting task for even the most gritty among us. For one, the roads are largely in a state of shambles and, god forbid, if a person were to meet with an accident, injury deaths are six times higher here than in other countries with an organised transport system in place. And, if anything, things are set to get worse. Intimations of this can be seen in our chaotic urban road planning as exemplified by the Bus Rapid Transit corridor in New Delhi that has got off to a perilous start, having already claimed several lives while in construction.
But planning is only part of the problem. A new Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) study reveals some chilling figures on the causes for death in accident cases on roads. Only 19 per cent victims get the help of an ambulance, 48 per cent have to make it to hospital on their own. The police are conspicuous by their absence. In fact, it is fear of harassment by the police that stops passersby from helping victims. Many good Samaritans have reported that the minute they call for help, they are treated as suspects in the case and made to go through tedious police procedures. The police are invariably late in reaching the site of the accident and are usually insistent on ascertaining all sorts of details before offering assistance to the victim. The other problem on our roads is that there are no clearly demarcated lanes for slow traffic and fast vehicles. This means that two-wheelers and cyclists are vulnerable to becoming accident victims. For those who do manage to reach a hospital, further nightmares await. Once again, fearing the police, victims are turned away sometimes till it is too late. The advent of high-speed cars, especially in metros, on to inadequate roads has also increased the fatality rate. That many of these cars are operated by those who either do not know, or have disregard, for safety measures like seat belts and lane driving add up to a lethal cocktail.
All this suggests that exhortations by politicians and the police to drive safely amount to nothing. Your life, while on the roads, is literally in your own hands.