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Every hour, 40 people under age of 25 die in road accidents around the globe

Road safety is evolving as a major social concern in India and our government has been attempting to tackle this crucial issue for several years. The Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 was to provide a framework for safer, faster, cost-effective and inclusive movement of passengers and freight in India. In July 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government will soon introduce laws to enhance road safety as traffic fatalities and injuries mount. A new Road Transport and Safety Bill is under preparation and a group of experts underlined the “urgent” need of a comprehensive national road safety legislation. Embarq India, an initiative from the World Resources Institute (WRI), has developed significant expertise in conducting road safety audits on a number of bus rapid transit systems in India. Arrive SAFE is an NGO who works as a pressure group to give a wake-up call to authorities concerned and shake the bad driving habits of Indian people. Indian driving schools focus on youth to enhance the art and skill of efficient driving. Many multinational companies fund NGOs as part of their own road safety initiatives but nothing much has changed. Henkel has launched a road safety initiative in an effort to address the topical issue of safety standards on the road in India. More than 13,000 people were killed in 35,957 road accidents in 2018, up from the 12,511 deaths in 36,056 mishaps in 2017, according to the data from the Maharashtra highway traffic police. As per the Maharashtra highway police officers, who collect data on all road accidents and analyse them, human error such as drink driving, lane-cutting, speaking over the phone while driving, etc. emerged as the main cause behind majority of the mishaps. Officers said their main focus this year is to increase enforcement and crack down on over-speeding.

According to government data, in 2015, 400 people were killed in road accidents every day, there are no comprehensive road safety legislation in the country yet. Its India’s worst kept secret we have the world’s most unsafe roads and the situation seems to be getting worse by the year. Data submitted by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in the Rajya Sabha indicates just how alarming the situation is. 1,46,133 people were killed in road accidents in India in 2015, a 4.6 per cent rise over 2014 when 1,39,671 people were killed. In the past one decade, over 1.3 million people have been killed in road accidents but there is still no comprehensive road safety legislation in the country. According to the 234th report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture which has recently been tabled in Parliament, there are several stumbling blocks for replacing the existing Motor Vehicles Act with a proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015. However, this has not been possible because “the main hitch is on sharing of revenues between the Centre and the state” in implementing the changes which have been proposed. In an effort to still try and push the safety measures through, the government claims it is trying to focus on noncontroversial, achievable goals such as “an increase in the penalty for drunken driving or increasing the penalty for unauthorized driving, minor driving.” While it is well established that our roads and highways are deadly to travel on, according to the data, the states with the highest number of road accidents in 2015 are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. These states contribute 29.66 per cent to the total number of accidents recorded nationwide. The same states also recorded the highest number of injuries at 2,75,873 in 2015. This has been revealed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety. The report pointed to speeding, drunk driving and low use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles as the main contributing factors. Every hour, 40 people under the age of 25 die in road accidents around the globe. According to the WHO, this is the second most important cause of death for 5 to 29 year olds. In India alone, the death toll rose to 14 per hour in 2009 as opposed to 13 the previous year. The total number of deaths every year due to road accidents has now passed the 135,000 mark, according to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau or NCRB. While trucks and two-wheelers were responsible for over 40 per cent of deaths, peak traffic during the afternoon and evening rush hours is the most dangerous time to be on the roads. Drunken driving is a major factor, the NCRB report further states that drunken driving was a major factor for road accidents. Joint Commissioner of Police Maxwell Perreira maintains that there has to be a change in drivers mindsets. Trucks are responsible for many road accidents in India. Campaigns against drunken driving have not proved effective. And the increasing number of prosecutions for drunken driving has also not been a deterrent. Road safety experts also warn that the real numbers of fatalities could be much higher since many cases are not even reported. There is no estimate as to how many people injured in road accidents die a few hours or days after the accident. And their deaths are then no longer linked to road traffic accidents. Penalise the driver heavily.

Availability of cheap labour is a bliss to India. Deploy police at known traffic jam creating junctions. Deploy police at known accident-prone zones. Keep spare ambulances around that area to provide immediate response. Once traffic officer himself is witness to accident, pursuing the incident legally becomes easy for government. Follow up on recorded offenses. If person doesn’t pay fine, ignoring the court summons, catch him when he comes for passport application; don’t accept his application, catch him when he shows his aadhaar card for gas cylinder; don’t give him gas till he pays the fine, or fights the violation in court and proves himself innocent.  Anyway, create a network of vehicle tower. Wrong side driving spotted by any officer, stop him, call the vehicle tower and have his vehicle towed. That vehicle can be retrieved only after a month. That inconvenience, added with fines for the violation, will sober people up. Yes, you will have to build huge garage and manage influx of towed vehicles, but hey you are making people live longer!

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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