Road accidents constitute a major public health problem all over the world. It is estimated that by 2020, road traffic injuries will be the third-largest contributor to the global burden of disease. Low- and middle-income countries are affected the most from road traffic accidents. A report on road safety in 2013 pointed out that 3,242 persons die everyday on the world’s roads. Many of them who die are bread-winners for their family and their death not only brings psychological trauma, but can also push the families over the brink into poverty.bread-winners for their family and their death not only brings psychological trauma, but can also push the families over the brink into poverty.everyday on the world’s roads. Many of them who die are bread-winners for their family and their death not only brings psychological trauma, but can also push the families over the brink into poverty.
The South East Asian region ranks third in number of road accidents among the Asian regions classified under the World Health Organization. India’s lack of concrete road safety policies and superficially conducted license procedures are only a few of the country’s road safety problems. India as a nation state depends on its 33 lakh kilometres of road as the lifeline of the country. Protecting the road users becomes the direct responsibility of the Government.
The culture of road safety should be initiated at the district level through behavorial strategies, starting with our young drivers, many of which are vulnerable to themselves and others due to risky driving behaviour. Driver error and driver behaviour (road rage, intoxication, etc.) contributes to about 90% of all road traffic injuries. The task of driving requires judgment, prediction and monitoring the behaviour of road users while requiring control of the vehicle with alertness to avoid accidents.
We will have to re-visit the way licenses are issued and the way our testing tracks are. The assessment pattern before providing a license should be regulated more methodically, considering the load of applicants arriving every day.
The government of Karnataka, a state in India, introduced the Harish Scheme to provide immediate and instant medical treatment at any hospital for victims during the golden hours. This plan provides the victim with cashless insurance of upto Rs 25,000 per victim, per episode, and if implemented by other states in India, would save more lives by not putting families into distress. We should, however, bear in mind that we are addressing the post-accident scenario in this case, when we can prevent accidents by targeting driver behaviour and education. Teaching drivers to use indicators, seat belts, follow lane discipline and give way to pedestrians will go a long way to help secure the roads.
The vehicles in India themselves often fail crash tests, and many of the end users look for mileage and cost over safety ratings.
Investing in helicopters to protect road accident victims will be a visionary move by the government. Positioned in accident-prone locations, helicopters can be air-lifted immediately and the treatment can begin without significant delay and blood loss, as ambulances on the ground often struggle to make it to accidents through traffic.
Traffic laws and enforcement also need to be re-visited. Currently, a constable lacks the authority to impose fines on road violators. Some constables in every district must undergo training to conduct random checks for violators. Bike constables can and should also be instated to check on rule violators. Mobile traffic courts should be put in place like in Tamil Nadu to deal with cases as soon as possible.
Public awareness campaigns on driver education ought to be tailored to gender specific, age specific segments and must address behaviour change which discourages road rage, tail-gating while driving in traffic and otherwise, and abusing passers-by or fellow drivers.
Urban planners ought to address issues of parking facilities and re-building structures by retro-fitting existing ones. The National Highway Authority of India has been doing phenomenal work since ages which has put our country on a decent path regarding roads, but rampant corruption has affected the quality of work in many areas.
Separate state institutes for driver education and formal training of two to three weeks before issuing driving licenses should be mandated to bring about sizeable behaviour change in the minds of the people. While driving responsibly is highly important, crossing the road responsibly is also necessary. Today we often witness people who wear ear-plugs and listen to music and they are unable to hear a honk or car less to look at both sides while driving. If they are not listening to music, they would be talking on the phone or looking at hoardings or walking absent minded. Bike constables as a concept to check rule violators can be given a thought by the respective state director generals of police.
The Central Road Research Institute, the arm of the central government should be provided with more budgetary allocation devoted to research and training. Commuter problems while travelling, safety of women and children while travelling all add to the road safety challenges that nations face. Smaller NGO’s must be assisted to identify policy gaps and this requires the political philosophy of commitment and fraternity to push road safety back on the policy agenda.