When it comes to safety on road, efforts must go beyond lip service
Last Sunday, another Road Safety Week was observed. Once again, the talk around road safety was everywhere — be it in the media, schools or even police stations. There were banners, social media posts, campaigns, quiz competitions, walks, talks and what not. However, by Monday, things were back to where they were a couple of Sundays ago. So, what changed after the Road Safety Week? Well, virtually nothing! In fact, this was the 30th Road Safety Week in the country. So, the same question can also be put across in a different way: What changed in last 30 years? Sadly, the only thing that changed in these years is the fact that road traffic deaths in India have tripled from around 36,000 per year to 150,000 per year.
So, why have things gone from bad to worse when it comes to road safety in India? Well that’s because we have totally forgotten that there is a science behind road safety. When it comes to road safety, unfortunately, most of the efforts from both the government and the private sector were limited to road safety education. We try to educate the road user to follow traffic rules, not drink and drive, reduce speed, etc.However in the end, we see all road traffic-related deaths have quadrupled in the last three decades. Therefore, the question is: Are we addressing the issue of road safety in the right manner? Clearly not. So, here are the three corrective actions that need to be executed now.
Putting people over politics: Correcting the legislation
Globally, countries that have done well on road safety have always had an effective legislation. The Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) 1988, the central piece of legislation is modelled on the Motor Vehicle Act, 1939. MVA came into existence at a time, when the motorisation scenario in India was at a nascent stage. Policies were needed to give a boost to the transportation sector. Hence, most of the provisions of the 1988 bill revolved around the movement of goods and passengers, while safety was mostly missing. Since then, it has been constantly felt that the act needs urgent amendment. The Centre came up with amendments to the MV Act that were passed by the Lok Sabha in April 2017. The bill has been stuck in Rajya Sabha since 2017, and has never been discussed. While politics may have taken over the functioning of Parliament, but we need to understand that it’s the people who are losing lives on the roads.
Safer by design: Making road infrastructure safe
One of the biggest missing pieces of road safety in India is understanding the impact of infrastructure. Globally, research has shown that creating safe infrastructure can help avoiding crashes or reduce their severity. The first and probably the only thing about which our infrastructure planners and designers think is how to move maximum number vehicles with the least amount of space and time consumed on the road. This needs to change, we need to put safety first while designing road projects. Therefore, any project that compromises safety but may help move few more cars, should not be approved. As per census 2011, 36% Indians walk or cycle to work, followed by 13% who use two wheelers, while using cars to travel to work accounts for only 3%. Therefore, road infrastructure design should accommodate all users and not only those in cars.
Safer speed: Zero tolerance to over speeding
Most of us are familiar with the slogan, ‘Speed Thrills but Also Kills’, right? Well, it is a reality because a number of studies from around the world have shown that speed is the biggest killer. But somehow, we continue to have this fascination for moving at a high speed. The other big problem with speed is the fact that it not only impacts the person who is driving but more importantly other users on road, especially pedestrians, cyclists, two wheelers, etc. For example, if a pedestrian is hit by a car at 30 kmph, the chance of survival is 90%. However, if the same collision happens at 50 kmph, which is the legal speed limit in our cities, the chance is only 15%. Now, imagine what happens beyond 50 kmph? Instant death. One way to control speed is to design roads for safe speed and not as a Formula One track. The second would be to enforce speed limits vigorously on the road through heavy fines,
Countries like Sweden have shown that it is possible to reduce road traffic-related deaths even when the overall transportation demand is growing. However, they have done this by following a safe systems approach. We need to learn from such examples. Road safety is beyond just education and surely takes more than a week-long campaign every year. We need to work towards it in a holistic manner and throughout the year. Else, next year we will have another Road Safety Week, but with fatalities crossing 150,000 in number.
(Amit Bhatt is the director- integrated transport, WRI India)
Apart from serene lakes, magnificent Mughal Gardens, vast meadows, deciduous forests and Himalayan peaks, people in Kashmir and visitors from outside this year will also be mesmerised by a festival of flowers starting May 20. “The festival is being organised on May 20 and 21 for which, our preparations are in full swing,” said Shayiq Rasool, deputy director, floriculture.
Hundreds of villagers -- including family members, relatives and friends of 52-year-old Ranjit Singh, who was killed in a grenade attack inside a wine shop in Baramulla on Tuesday -- blocked Rajouri-Poonch highway at Sunderbani on Wednesday morning for over three hours to protest against his killing. Ranjit hailed from Bhakar village in Sunderbani and had recently gone to Baramulla to work at the wine shop.
The unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi will come into effect from May 22, according to a notification issued by the Union government on Wednesday, as the terms of the three municipal bodies in the Capital are coming to an end. The term of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation ended on Wednesday, while the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and East DMC will complete their tenures on May 19 and 22, respectively.
At least 50,000 people, including BJP workers and beneficiaries of various Centre-sponsored schemes, will attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Shimla rally on May 31. The event is being held to mark the completion of Modi government's eight years. “We have set a target of 50,000 attendees for the rally likely to be held on The Ridge,” said state BJP president Suresh Kashyap while addressing a virtual meeting of the party office-bearers.
The Congress seems to be divided on the CBI probe into the police constable recruitment paper leak case. Senior party leader and Naina Devi MLA Thakur Ram Lal said the Congress was against the CBI probe as it was an attempt by the state government to mess up the case. It is worth mentioning that when the paper leak case came to the fore, several Congress leaders had sought a CBI probe into it.