First of all, India does not have a comprehensive road safety policy. And lack of coordination between defferent government agencies is responsible for the traffic mess. There are flaws in the mechanism of issuance of driving licenses in the state. There is a perception in our country that you will get instances which confirm this perception. The shortage of manpower and absence of medical facilities including ambulances, is another factor for massive human casualities.
That India’s Motor Vehicles Act lags far behind the needs of a fast-motorizing society, is painfully evident from its road safety record. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture recognized this and suggested several modifications in the Motor Vehicles Act to strengthen enforcement and reduce the trauma of making a compensation claim.
The first and foremost step required for minimizing the casualties is self-discipline. Accidents cannot be wished away, but can be reduced if people will follow guidelines and regulations laid down by the traffic department and other agencies. Better transport, better roads and technological advancements will be of more help than increasing the manpower.
Parents should ensure that their kids are law abiding when on the road and careful while on the move. Cyclists have the right to use the road, but not at the cost of someone’s life and property. They should be responsible while travelling on the road. Traffic officials may take initiatives to make cycling more responsible and road-friendly. Otherwise, more and more people would get killed or injured. Cyclists should be asked to fix reflectors on their bicycles, keep their headlights on when they travel at night, always keep to the left when on the move, use bells to alert the pedestrians and, above all, make it essential that the cyclist is mature enough to ride on the road.
Tamil Nadu was the first state in India to announce a Road Safety Policy in April 2007. This was followed by a Road Safety Action Plan in 2009, which uses an IT-based system to track vehicular accidents. The project has been designed with the help of international consultants and is funded by the World Bank. A principal element of the action plan is a software package known as the Road Accident Data Management System (RADMS), which generates detailed information on accidents for all the roads (national highways, state highways, major district roads, city/urban roads, etc.). The GIS-based system is easy to use and has been deployed at all the 1,400 police stations of the state, and the personnel have all been trained in its use.
With accurate and real-time accident data replacing the voluminous FIR data, the police department has been able to effectively post personnel at critical traffic junctions, deploy radar at appropriate places to detect and prevent speeding, provide speed-breakers at relevant spots, upgrade traffic lights, enforce rules for the use of seat belts and helmets, etc. There are plans to provide a hand-held GPS enabled device to personnel at each police station, to capture the accident details on the spot itself.
The Institute of Health Systems has a few solutions:
Be more stringent in issuing licenses.
Think of ways to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.
Be strict about usage of helmets.
Make separate lanes for heavy vehicles.
Study how these issues are tackled in advanced countries.
The World Bank has some suggestions as well:
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.
Introduction of Road safety audits.
Speed controlling measures such as speed bumps, rumble strips, road markings, traffic signs and roundabouts.
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, in spite of the right lane meant purely for overtaking, many cars love to hog this lane.
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 unaware 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? And if they have the clout, they can get away with it.
Overcrowded and polluted roads are common sights in India, especially in metropolitan cities where road chaos is all too common: high population densities are not serviced by the adequate level of public transport facilities, meaning individuals resort to using their personal vehicles for commuting. But this increasing level of traffic is not helping the accidents statistics. Heavy congestion often leads to frustration and erratic driving to the point that even footpaths have become dangerous for pedestrians, as many cars use them to skip traffic or park, leaving pedestrians no choice but to use the roads to walk on and put themselves at risk.
However, many road accidents can still be avoided despite the high number of vehicles, just by improving road conditions. Indian roads suffer from severe maintenance issues and are not wide enough to tackle the increasing traffic. Small roads are plagued with potholes and can be fatal when the traffic is heavy. The lack of lane and road markings is another contributing factor to road accidents. Cities like Delhi and Pune have recognized the undeniable benefit of these and have introduced such lanes on certain stretches of roads. The absence of proper traffic signs is another problem.
One very effective way to solve the problem of high vehicular traffic is to develop and increase the public transport system. More and more metro cities are developing their mass rapid transit system to bring down traffic volume. Road accidents and high vehicle density are intrinsically related, but the root of the problem lies in the infrastructural conditions of Indian roads that are too inadequate to handle the heavy volume of traffic. Once this issue is properly tackled, the number of road accidents should start to recede and be in line with that of neighboring countries.