Self-regulation is the only way there will be some order on Mumbai’s roads.
“The number of vehicles and the number of accidents are both on the rise. Add to this the fact that the traffic police are short-staffed. In such a situation, unless we want to become a lawless city, Mumbaiites have to take on the responsibility, become self-disciplined and follow traffic rules,” said Allka Shah, member of the Road Safety Advisory Committee for the traffic police.
“Every day, about 300 to 400 new vehicles are added to the city’s roads. And each of these drivers are in a rush and violate traffic rules by cutting lanes, jumping signals, driving rashly, exposing other motorists as well as pedestrians to the risk of accidents,” said PP Temkar, senior inspector of Vakola police chowky. “Most accidents occur because of human error.”
Apart from taking measures at an individual level to ensure road safety, people should also start and participate in community projects, said Shah.
Several citizens are already working to bring about more regulation and discipline on the streets. Rupa Kothari, trustee and executive editor of Safe Kids Foundation, has an ongoing programme called Walk This Way, which educates both children up to 14 years of age about pedestrian safety. The initiative, which started in October 2007, increases children’s awareness of the hazards on the road and try to ensure that they grow up as more responsible citizens.
Worldwide, accidents kill 10 lakh children annually. In India, this number is around 60, 000. “From following the zebra crossing to using the footpath and reading traffic signs, we train the children in all aspects of pedestrian safety,” said Kothari.
The programme is conducted in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad, covering 1,059 schools and more than 17 lakh children.
Similarly, the civic body’s Brihanmumbai Mahapalika Shikshak Sabha is a voluntarily initiative introduced in 2009 that trains teachers on pedestrian road safety. The programme aims to educate teachers so that they can pass on the knowledge to their students, said Shilpa Naik, working president of the Sabha. “The teachers are from both civic and private schools. We guide them about traffic norms, including using footpaths and zebra crossings,” said Naik. “We try to convey that the traffic police are our friends and that we should cooperate with them for our safety.”
“Housing societies, too, can take such initiatives, said Shah. “Societies can ensure that all their residents get in-house parking so that the streets outside are not congested.”
A year ago, Shah made a presentation to the home department, proposing that a chapter on road safety be made compulsory in the curriculum for all school children. “Work on that front is in progress,” Shah said.
“Schools already have programmes such as the National Cadet Corps and Road Safety Patrol. “It is only a matter of utilising them more effectively.”
Citizens can also make a difference by prevailing upon the government to have better accountability, said YP Singh, former IPS officer and now a lawyer. “If you know that a policeman is allowing you to park in a prohibited area or is trying to extort money, you should not give in. Citizens can ensure that there is greater accountability and lesser corruption, which will, in turn, create more decorum on the streets,” he said.