Given below are some statistics from the website of The Department of Road Transport and Highway, Government of India:
These are just statistics and may not affect us as much as they should. But if we see a sight like the one below,
we do get affected. Well, these scenes are being enacted everyday on Indian roads.
As it says here:
Incidentally, India holds the dubious distinction of registering the highest number of road accidents in the world. According to the experts at the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NTPRC) the number of road accidents in India is three times higher than that prevailing in developed countries. The number of accidents for 1000 vehicles in India is as high as 35 while the figure ranges from 4 to 10 in developed countries.
So, why do accidents happen? 80% of road accidents are caused human error say senior police officials, according to a news report in the TOI today. Although no nationwide study as to the causes of road accidents in India is available on the internet, there are smaller studies which confirm these findings.
Well, we all know how easy it is to get a driving license in India. Also punishment for errant drivers is light. A bribe is all that needs to be given and the rash drivers are free to go. Indians are known for their high degree of patience, but do we have to be patient where rash driving is concerned? No. Some drastic action needs to be taken.
The Institute of Health Systems has a few solutions:
1) Be more stringent in issuing licenses.
2) Think of ways to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.
3) Be strict about usage of helmets.
4) Make separate lanes for heavy vehicles.
5) Study how these issues are tackled in advanced countries.
The World Bank has some suggestions as well:
1) Increase awareness about road safety among road users, planners and engineers. In fact, the World Bank sees public awareness campaigns as a vital part of its efforts to improve road safety. They had designed one such project for the National Highway Authority of India.
2) Introduction of Road safety audits.
3) Speed controlling measures such as speed bumps, rumble strips, road markings, traffic signs, and roundabouts.
4) Building of separate non-motorized traffic and motorcycle lanes to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.
Well, there are always solutions and in some ways we are moving towards that. Better and wider roads for example. States are making wearing of helmets compulsory. But road accidents are not reducing. For example one of our best roads, the Mumbai Pune Expressway, sees a fair amount of accidents. In 2006 more than sixty people died on this road. We’ve seen cars traveling at 140 kms per hour (speed limit is 80) on this road. In fact these speeds are a regular feature. Also, inspite of the right lane meant purely for overtaking, many cars love to hog this lane. I took the picture below just a few days ago:
As a result others overtake from the left at high speeds. If the expressway is crowded, drivers simply weave in and out at dangerous speeds. There are rarely any cops to be seen.
If educated people aware of traffic rules and with proper licenses break traffic rules, what can we expect from those who are unware of traffic rules, and those who have not passed a driving test before getting their licenses? What can we expect from drunk drivers? What can we expect from drivers who suffer from road rage?
Why, murder ofcourse. And if they have clout, they can get away with it.
(The photographs of the accidents have been sourced from Tribune and the World Bank websites)