This year, India is observing an entire National Road Safety month, instead of a week, from 18th January to 17th February. The main objective is to generate general awareness regarding traffic rules and to punish violators. This year’s theme is, “Sadak Suraksha – Jeevan Raksha”.
In India, every year more than 1.5 lakh people lose their lives to road accidents. Double of this number suffer debilitating injuries. It also causes immense economic hardship and badly affects entire families. Each and every day many lives lost due to road accidents can be saved.
On seeing an accident, people start making videos of it, or share it as news. Nobody is ready to provide first aid and become a first responder. An early help may save a precious life. When we talk about Sgr-Jmu National Highway, life is in much more danger than on any other road. A decade’s data (2010 to 2020) compiled by J&K Traffic Police Department reveals that the Sgr- Jmu NH has seen 8,128 road accidents resulting in 1,750 deaths and injuries to as many as 12,131 persons. Even after so many accidents, still the road is not secured properly.
The driver’s behaviour, condition of the road and of the vehicle, and overloading along with rash and negligent driving are main reasons behind most accidents. There is a need for society at large to take cognisance of the issue and make road safety awareness a mass movement. To sensitise all the stakeholders on road safety, every year the government takes up various initiatives and activities to generate mass awareness.
To create a mass movement on road safety, the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways intends to provide financial support for organising various road safety activities and initiatives like seminars, debates, walkathons, gifting of helmets, flowers, two-wheeler rallies, awards, workshops, etc.
The Traffic Police along with various pipeline departments together generate awareness among public, distribute pamphlets and give special learning tips to the drivers’ community. In one seminar organised by the Traffic Police Srinagar, renowned religious scholar Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi delivered a detailed talk on use of roads and following traffic rules in light of the teachings of the Prophet. SSP Traffic City highlighted the socio-economic issues including hospitalisation woes related to road accidents and appealed to all stakeholders to play their role. He said that every day many precious lives are lost in different road collisions and many families lose their loved ones.
A traffic accident or collision occurs when a vehicle collides with another or with a pedestrian, animal or other stationary obstruction, such as a utility pole or a stone. Many people die in accidents as a consequence of inexperience in driving, speeding too much, or drinking under intoxication. Many accidents, however, are caused due to the condition of the roads and of the vehicle. Sometimes natural or weather conditions like earthquake, floods, fog, snow, heavy rainfall, wind storms, hail storms, etc, cause road accidents. Because most traffic accidents are the result of several factors, the probability of accidents can be reduced in a number of different ways.
Condition of Vehicle
A well-designed and well-maintained vehicle, with good brakes, tyres, functional speedometer, adjusted side mirrors and well-adjusted suspension will be more controllable in an emergency and thus be better equipped to avoid collisions. The design of vehicles has evolved to improve protection after collision, both for vehicle occupants and for those outside of the vehicle. Speeding also increases the risk of collision. Failure of brakes or steering, tyre burst, insufficient headlights, overloading, projecting loads are the main causes of collision. This can be prevented by vehicle engineering and maintenance, as also by using safety equipment such as seat belts.
Condition of Roads
This aspect encompasses road design, pot-holes, damaged or eroded roads, merging of roads with highways, diversions, illegal speed breakers, blind curves, and many more. Crashes are common in areas of high vehicle congestion but fatal crashes occur disproportionately on roads at night when traffic is relatively light. The preventive measures include better road maintenance and smart traffic engineering, which comprises design of new roads, separating opposing traffic flows, elimination of cross traffic, existing road improvement, resurfacing of slippery areas, installing traffic signals, road markings, and regulatory signs such as “stop” and “give way” to provide appropriate warning or avoid confusion.
This includes factors related to drivers as well as road users such as pedestrians. Carelessness, illiteracy, poor eyesight or physical impairment, crossing at wrong places, moving on carriageway, passengers waiting on road, passengers projecting their body outside the vehicle, alighting and boarding vehicle from wrong side, travelling on footboards, catching a running bus, etc, may contribute to a collision. This factor especially causes accidents when the vehicle is at high speed. Passengers often force the driver to drive fast or on the wrong side. Some drivers themselves lose patience and speed too much.
Role of Driver
The experience of drivers is that signs and regulations have a positive effect on their ability to interact safely with other road users. A number of factors contribute to the risk of collision, including driver’s skill, impairment due to alcohol or drugs, over-speeding, rash driving, violation of rules, failure to understand signs, fatigue, and street racing. Apart from alcohol, many drugs and medicines also affect the skills and concentration necessary for driving. A red light jumper not only jeopardises his life but also of other road users. This act by the driver also incites other drivers to attempt it and it finally causes chaos at crossings.
Distractions while Driving
Even a minor distraction while driving can cause major accidents. Distractions could be outside or inside the vehicle. The major distraction nowadays is talking on mobile phone, looking at Facebook and WhatsApp messages, and texting/ chatting while driving. One should not attend phone calls while driving. Also avoid fiddling with the music system or LCDs while driving. One of the preventive measures of this is enforcement of reasonable traffic laws.
However, a small number of traffic cops can’t alone control and manage traffic. Other departments and the general people also have to play their role. Parents should avoid giving motorbikes and cars to under-age minors. There should be education of children in schools by road-traffic instructors and by means of print and electronic media and other publicity material. The attention of all road users needs to be drawn both to dangers and to safe practices on the road.
The writer belongs to Tral. [email protected]