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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Road to Safety

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Context

  • The third Sunday of November every year is observed as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
  • Globally, over 3500 people die every day on the roads, which amounts to nearly 1.3 million preventable deaths and an estimated 50 million injuries each year – making it the leading killer of people worldwide.

Road Accidents in India

  • India recorded 3,74,397 accidental deaths in 2020 with road crashes constituting over 35 per cent of such fatalities, according to government data.
  • The number of accidental deaths in 2020 was, however, lower than 2019 when the figure stood at 4,21,104, the annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed.
  • The rate of ‘accidental deaths’ per lakh population stood at 27.7 in 2020, down from 31.4 the previous year.

Road traffic accident casualties bring about a great deal of human suffering in terms of social, medical, and economic costs, and it is crucial we mitigate them.

A global panacea

  • Recognizing the enormity of the problem and the need to act, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in September 2020, proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.
  • It set a ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.
  • This year marks the beginning of the Second Decade for Action for Road Safety.
  • The Global Plan on Improving Road Safety was launched by the United Nations last month, calling on countries to deliver on the resolution’s target by make roads safer.

Causes of Road Accidents in India

There are multiple reasons for road accidents:

  • Sub-standard roads: The life of roads is not good due to the substandard raw materials and potholes accidents caused.
  • Traffic: The increasing traffic on roads and conditions of roads are not proportionate to each other.
  • Use of mobile phone: Most of the people are on call while driving thus they drive recklessly and accidents happen as most of the Indians now have mobile phones.
  • Drunk Driving: Drinking makes people lose the ability to focus and function properly. This makes it dangerous for the driver to operate the vehicle.
  • Dis-obedience for traffic rules: Indian drivers are quick to learn to drive but they don’t learn traffic rules and the purpose of such rules.
  • Malpractices: Malpractices such as over-speeding, triple riding, underage driving, etc are reducing the safety of road users.
  • Implementation drawbacks: Police are supposed to execute the rules but, it may be a lack of workforce or lack of intention, they also fail to execute.
  • Corrupt practices: Mostly police use the rules to mint money either officially by Chalan or in person.

Issue of non-Conviction

  • According to the report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, in 79% of all accidents, the driver was found to be at fault.
  • Though this did not mean the person behind the wheel was punished for the crime.
  • Conviction rates for urban road accidents typically hover between 5% and 10%.
  • In hit-and-run cases, lack of eyewitnesses and surveillance typically leads to a “blind” close of the case if the victim does not note the licence plate number of the vehicle.

Various Policy Initiatives

[A] Motor Vehicles Amendment Act 2019

Some of the important areas of the amendment are as follows

(1) Road Safety

  • In the area of road safety, the Act proposes to increase penalties to act as deterrent against traffic violations.
  • Stricter provisions are being proposed in respect of offences like juvenile driving, drunken driving, driving without licence, dangerous driving, over-speeding, overloading etc.
  • Stricter provisions for helmets have been introduced along with provisions for electronic detection of violations.

(2) Vehicle Fitness

  • Automated fitness testing for vehicles has been made mandatory.
  • This would reduce corruption in the transport department while improving the road worthiness of the vehicle.
  • Penalty has been provided for deliberate violation of safety/environmental regulations as well as for body builders and spare part suppliers.

(3) Recall of Vehicles

  • The Act allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users.
  • The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to:
  1. reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or
  2. replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.

(4) Road Safety Board

  • A National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification to advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  • This would include standards of motor vehicles, registration and licensing of vehicles, standards for road safety, and promotion of new vehicle technology.

(5) Protection of Good Samaritan

  • The Act lays down the guidelines and provides rules to prevent harassment of Good Samaritan  to encourage people to help road accident victims.

(6) Cashless Treatment during Golden Hour

  • The Act provides for a scheme for cashless treatment of road accident victims during golden hour

[B] Old Vehicle Scrappage Policy

  • The non-maintenance of old non-compliant vehicles has been a leading cause of road accident.
  • With the scrappage policy, there will be some relief from the high risk of road accidents due to old vehicles and old technology.

[C] The 4 ‘E’ Approach

  • The Government of India put forth Engineering, Economy, Enforcement and Education as the fundamental areas to focus on in order to ensure road safety.
  • The black spot in every state, district and city shall be identified and removed.
  • The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have funded to assist the National Highways Authority to remove the black spots and improve the road conditions.

[D] Sadak Suraksha – Jeevan Raksha Initiative

  • The MoRTH has started a campaign to establish road safety involving the participation of citizens by promoting several activities like the Road Safety Hackathon, Article writing competition on Road Safety, movie-making on road safety.
  • This will bring mass awareness about road safety and educate the citizens.

[E] iRAD Mobile and Web Application

  • This is an Integrated Road Accident Database Project initiated by the MoRTH, GOI and funded by World Bank.
  • The database would enable the analysis of road accidents and provide the output through data analytics techniques.
  • This aims to assure a safe road for all.

Way forward

Road safety education from the primary level: Those already using our roads and driving or riding on it could have formed bad habits that are difficult to change or undo. So it’s important that we catch them young and start educating children on road safety and correct behavior on the road.

Better first aid and paramedic care: In most cases, the public and police are the first ones to reach the site of an accident. But sadly, neither has any first aid training and the police don’t even have even simple things like a first aid box or stretcher. This initial trauma care has to improve.  

Stricter criteria for driving licenses: Fortunately, the government has recognized the need for this, and getting a driving license is no longer as easy as before. Lots of the process has been digitalized and made more stringent. But it’s still far from perfect and lots more needs to be done

Better road design, maintenance, and signage: Many of our roads are poorly designed with badly placed junctions, acute corners, uneven gradients, sudden speed-breakers, etc. And this is made worse by poor road maintenance and many accidents occur because a driver suddenly swerves to avoid a pothole.

Heavy crackdown against non-compliance: This is one of the leading causes of road accidents in India and while we do have strict laws, the enforcement, particularly on our highways is quite lax. Consumption of drugs by truck drivers while driving is rampant, and this needs to stop completely.

Stricter enforcement of traffic rules: The Amended Motor Vehicles Act has higher penalties and punishment to deter people from committing traffic offenses and driving rashly. It’s high time we enforced our traffic rules and imposed discipline while driving and using the road.

Encouraging better road behavior: The people should motivate themselves to behave in a better manner on the road. The campaigns such as “Be the Better Guy”, need to be applauded, encouraged and expanded.

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