Road Safety: Our 10 point plan to reduce road accidents in India
It is now a well-known fact that India has the highest number of annual road fatalities in the world. Yes, every year more than 1, 50,000 people die on our roads and streets. This wastage of life causes a huge and irreplaceable human and emotional loss to the concerned family members and friends. While many also suffer financially, the adverse effect on our GDP is substantial too.
Although road accidents are tragic, in India they happen largely due to avoidable reasons like human error, flouting of traffic rules, poor road design, etc. Given this, we feel proper education and awareness and strict enforcement of traffic rules and better discipline and behaviour, can result in the reduction of road accidents and fatalities.
So here is our "10 Point Plan to Reduce Road Accidents and Fatalities".
1) 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. This does not have to involve books or boring lectures. It can be like a weekly fun class involving playing with model cars, trucks and bikes, and playing board games that reward correct driving practices and road behavior. In fact we at Overdrive will be more than happy to help design and make such "Road Safety Board Games" that can also be played digitally.
2) Including "Road Safety" in the school syllabus: Now with the increasing pollution and degradation of our planet, environment studies are part of most school syllabuses. Similarly, road safety which is such a critical life and death issue needs to be made part of schools syllabuses and examinations. And as it's easy to study, it can be turned into a high scoring subject to make it more appealing.
3) Stricter exams and practical tests 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, particularly when it comes to proper practical tests where every aspect of driving including following traffic rules, vehicle control, emergency braking, emergency lane change, maneuvering, reversing and parking, are all thoroughly tested.
4) 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. Proper road lighting, reflectors and signs play an important role in cautioning and alerting a driver and we need to have many more of all of these installed in a scientific manner.
5) Crackdown on driving under influence of alcohol and drugs: 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.
6) Enforcement of traffic rules: The Amended Motor Vehicles Act has higher penalties and punishment to deter people from committing traffic offences and driving rashly. But it's faced lots of opposition and is still far away from being implemented or enforced properly on a national level. It's high time we enforced our traffic rules and imposed discipline while driving and using the road.
7) Encouraging better road behavior: Hyundai has been running a very educative and innovative campaign "Be the Better Guy", with some of the advertisements and films even featuring superstar Shahrukh Khan. Such campaigns that urge people to behave in a better manner on the road and "Be the Better Guy", need to be applauded, encouraged and expanded.
8) Wearing of seatbelts and helmets: Although all traffic rules need to be enforced and followed, the wearing of seatbelts and helmets should be ensured through proper enforcement, punishment and education. This is non-negotiable and we have to make everyone realize and respect this.
9) Road worthiness of vehicle: While we have rules specifying such things, the enforcement or checking on the ground is almost non-existent. In my 40 or so years of driving in India, I am still to see anyone being stopped to check the tyres, brakes, indicators, headlights and taillights, wipers and so on. Only vehicles with all such basic things in good running order should be allowed to ply on our roads.
10) 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. The public at large should be made aware about first aid and all police personnel should undergo initial paramedic first aid training. All police vehicles must also be equipped with first aid kits, stretchers and body bags.