Vijay K. Saluja
Not a single day, the newspapers of Delhi, where I live, have nothing, to report about accidents on roads! In the last three days, the Times of India-Delhi Edition, carried a `news` with the following captions
Global Road Safety Partnership[GRSP]
The first United Nations Global Road Safety Week (GRSW) was held in the week of 23 – 29 April 2007 to draw attention to the global road safety crisis with a particular focus on young road users.
In Ghana, programme in association with GRSP…(click for full detail )
What are the reasons?
China — (click for full detail )
MalaysiaArgentina– (click for full detail )
India had a road network of over 3 million kilometres, with an annual road traffic growth rate of 7-10 per cent. Indian roads carried 85 per cent of the passenger and 60 per cent of the freight traffic, with highways carrying 40 per cent of that traffic, even though they comprised only two per cent of the road network. India had lagged behind for many years in developing its highway system but a concerted effort had been made recently to improve highway engineering and advance the highway infrastructure. Through the National Highway Development Project, over 14,000 kilometres of highways would be converted into four- or six-lane roads to connect all regions of the country.
Economic & social Angle
Road traffic deaths and injuries had serious economic and social impacts on all nations, and in particular developing countries. Road accidents produced some $65 billion in losses annually in developing countries, twice the annual amount received in development assistance. Reducing road traffic incidents was, therefore, important for poverty eradication, reduction of child mortality and sustainable development. It was particularly at times when countries were developing their road transport that the highest rates of accidents occurred because road conditions, human behaviour and management had difficulty keeping up with rapid development. But, countries had the know-how to prevent such accidents. Therefore, it was necessary for countries to share their experiences and learn from each other’s best practices.
It was also necessary for the international community to provide more assistance in funding, technology and training.
Can road traffic injuries be prevented in this country-India?
There are 4 different approaches in road safety i.e. education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency care. It is important to know the merits and demerits, advantages and the disadvantages of these intervention strategies.
The major focus of prevention by all concerned agencies has been to educate people with the hope that people would change their behaviors and practices. Every year, as part of the road safety celebrations or as road safety melas, crores of rupees are spent trying to provide information for people and to change their behaviors on the roads. We have been building and improving roads (at a slow pace) in the last 5 years and our roads are changing, at least in selected parts. Similarly, we are also making available fast moving vehicles to our younger generation and telling them – don’t drive fast. In reality, speeds are increasing day by day. Speed is a bigger killer and more people are getting killed because of this factor. Global evidence indicates that education alone is difficult to change behavior of people, in an activity which they have to perform for the whole of their life. A review of education programs has revealed that education by provision of knowledge alone, cannot yield tangible results, but are quite effective when combined with other interventions. Further, even developing education programs (which can really make an impact) is difficult in India with large socio-cultural diversities, so many languages, 30 states, different political parties, and a situation of inadequate resources. Every child who starts going to school today will end up spending rest of his life by using a vehicle on the roads.
With enforcement, the advantages are of visible enforcement, people are afraid of law- law when enforced can be a good deterrent, and impact can be easily measured in terms of deaths and injuries. However, disadvantages are that unless it is uniform, visible, accepted by the community, commitment by the enforcing agencies, and penalties are such that it affects the pockets of people, even this is unlikely to work. If we have a fine of Rs. 50 for an offence, nobody will attach any importance for the same. They are rather happy to pay Rs. 50 and walk away with it, then actually change their practices. Here corruption is perceived to be one of the big deterrent
In engineering approaches, it is more of a passive change. On the streets of Chandigarh-to give one example, we have seen, dedicated bicycle lanes, which is a good practice. By doing this, traffic mix is separated on the road. By traffic separation, the incoming and outgoing traffic does not mix. So, lot of engineering changes can be done, which have longer impact and are effective. But it requires resources, commitment, and technology.
Behavior is one of the determinants, which is vital and needs to be understood in formulation of road safety programs. Hence, we need to develop systems where activities and programs can be integrated and coordinated with well defined monitoring systems. We need to think of other alternatives like Should we make our vehicles more visible and safer? Can our roads be more safe? Can measures be developed with which people are automatically safer ? In a recent published article, it has been shown that when people wear white and yellow color helmets the crash rate in this group was 30% less .
Causes of Accidents/ Injuries?
From the health sector, we have been spending crores of rupees on building high-tech hospitals, introducing sophisticated technology, introducing costlier and the most trendy facilities that are available in most developed parts of the world. But when we come to pre hospital and emergency care we notice that there are considerable delays in availability of care; reaching a definitive hospital; lots of medico legal hurdles because nobody wants to lift a person who is injured on the road to a hospital. (because he is afraid that he has to spend lot of hours in going to a court or to attend the court calls). There are instances where people have been lying on the road for >3 hours without anybody attending to him. There are lack of protocols for emergency care and lack of facilities in health care institutions. In a survey of 25 hospitals in Bangalore, it was observed that in government hospitals, facilities were poor for managing trauma patients. It is only referral to the next hospital along with lack of information to public at all times. The final truth is that nearly 20%-30% of total disabilities (for which we have rehabilitation programmes) are preventable with good prevention practices and early hospital care programs.
Road Ahead – Steps Needed to Be Taken
(click for full detail )
- Government and the Public Sector can work on:
- Local and Regional Governments can:
- Communities and Cultural or Ethnic Organizations can:
- Education Sector can:
- Media can:
- Police and Enforcement Agencies can:
- Health Agencies and Professionals can:
- Transport and Land-Use Planners can:
- Road Engineers and Highway Authorities can:
- Insurance Industry can:
- Alcohol and Hospitality Entertainment Industry:
- Vehicle Manufacturers and Importers can:
- Heavy Vehicle Transport Industry can:
- Driver Training Providers can:
- Motoring Associations can:…
- Advertisers can:…
- Researchers/Universities can:…
- All Organization can: …
- Individual Road Users can: …