The death of an 11-year-old boy and the injuries sustained by several others in an accident in the capital on Sunday puts road safety under the scanner once again. The boy was riding pillion on a scooter with his father when a speeding Blueline bus jumped a red light and smashed into them, before spinning out of control and hitting several other vehicles. This is the latest in a series of accidents on the capital’s roads that brings home the terrible truth that raising the safety bar on Indian roads remains a pipedream. Despite being one of the most discussed issues, when all is said and done on improving road safety, it becomes a case of a lot more said than done.
Ironically, while new roads are being built, and newer, supposedly safer automobiles — with safety features like airbags, crash sensors and crumple zones — race out of the factories, the country’s road safety record remains abysmal. Delhi continues to retain its dubious distinction of being the killer capital, with 1,880 fatal road accidents reported last year alone. During this period, 969 people were killed by commercial vehicles, including trucks and private buses like the one involved in last Sunday’s mishap. Several factors contribute to these appalling statistics. Worldwide, there is evidence to indicate that human error alone need not necessarily cause an accident. Equally significant is the influence of factors like the design of vehicles and roads, and traffic law enforcement on pedestrians and cyclists. In India, this is particularly true since the facilities available for non-motorised road users are poor, even non-existent. It’s high time the authorities did more than indulge in ‘traffic drives’ to book errant drivers.
Though policies exist prohibiting over-speeding and footboard travel, these issues need to be reinforced through stickers posted on public transport vehicles. Sensitisation drives must be undertaken which involve drivers of all vehicular transport and passengers. Only a zero-tolerance policy on a sustained basis to educate people on good road sense will work. The best proof of this is the way road users put on their best behaviour during the ‘Safety Week’ every year. This is one period when the number of accidents comes down dramatically.