It is time to re-examine our traditional approach to road safety
Last month, a six-member committee constituted to look at Gurugram’s Golf Course Road identified eight key spots that needed safety measures for pedestrians. This may sound a little underwhelming, but it is not. That’s because Golf Course Road has almost 16 lanes for motor vehicles but not even 16 inches for pedestrians. Therefore, to get something for pedestrians on this road is nothing short of a miracle.
This was not the only good news on the road safety front. Two more important developments took place last month. First, the Lok Sabha passed the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill. The Bill is now just a step away from becoming a law. Second, the Haryana Vision Zero (HVZ), a programme of the Haryana Government that aims to achieve zero road fatalities, completed two years.
India has the most killer roads in the world. This is because even with less than 2% of global motor vehicles, India accounts for over 12% of road traffic deaths. Every year, the country loses approximately 1.5 lakh lives on its road due to road traffic crashes. Haryana, on the other hand, loses 5,000 lives every year due to road traffic deaths.
Gurugram is the worst performing district in Haryana with almost three deaths in every two days. Therefore, road safety is a serious issue in the state as well as in Gurugram.
The Central government is trying to amend rules to improve road safety but the state also needs to work on it. Let me explain why.
Involvement Of The State
Laws relating to motor vehicles fall under the Concurrent List. This means both the Central government and the state government can frame rules. Most states talk about having a strong central legislation on road safety but that doesn’t stop them from making their own rules. Although pedestrians and cyclists are important road users, the Central government cannot make any rules around them because they follow non-motorised modes of transport. Therefore, it is even more important that states take up the leadership role in this aspect. The chief minister of Haryana launched the Haryana Vision Zero programme in May 2017.The programme partners include civil society members, industry associations, corporates, thus showing innovation on the part of the state.
The first road safety awareness week was observed in 1989 when the country lost 36,000 people in traffic crashes. Thirty road safety week later, the number has quadrupled to 150,000 deaths. This is because road accidents are often attributed to human errors. Therefore, the conversation on road safety has revolved around educating people. We see a lot of campaigns around safe driving, following traffic rules, etc. Education is important but education alone does not fetch the desired results. It needs to be backed by enforcement and engineering measures. Analysis of first information reports and crash investigation are the key components of getting good data for action. By compiling this data, the Haryana Vision Zero has identified 488 black spots and 118 critical stretches for road safety in the state. Improving road safety measures at these locations will surely decrease the number of road fatalities.
Monitoring and Evaluation
India signed the 2015 Brasilia Declaration and committed to reducing road traffic deaths by half by 2020. Forget reduction, the numbers have only gone up. While the commitment, no doubt, was too ambitious, there was also no monitoring mechanism to check the progress. The Haryana Vision Zero programme has officially committed to a 20% reduction in traffic deaths by 2020.
The programme has a strong monitoring and evaluation around the project to assess the impact. For instance, there is a fortnightly review meeting at the highest level in the state wherein each of the districts, agencies and partners involved update about the work done, the progress made, and the problems faced. The district road safety committee meetings have also revitalised. The result is that there is a 7% decline in road deaths in the first 6 months of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018, as per the data shared by the Haryana Vision Zero.
We have lost far too many lives on roads in India. It’s time to reconsider our approach to road safety because the traditional approach is not working. Haryana Vision Zero is a step in the right direction.
(Amit Bhatt is Director— Integrated Transport, WRI India)