Self-preservation or protecting oneself from harm or death is a natural instinct in human beings as well as animals. However, when it comes to driving a car or riding a motorcycle, this instinct takes a backseat with Indian commuters. Not only the people behind the steering wheel of a car or on the saddle of a two-wheeler, the instinct is also missing in pedestrians. The recently concluded Indian Road Safety Mission 2016 held by Maruti Suzuki indicated the improvement areas as well as the strength of infrastructure, awareness as well as traffic sense amongst people in select Tier I cities which were Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.
Present at the event was Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari who also pointed out that despite enforcing rules, the same are flouted by commuters every now and then. For many people, it is not a crime to jump a traffic light or use a phone, however, the end result in case anything goes bad proves to be fatal for all those who get involved in such an incident. There is a minute set of people who do follow rules and respect all road and safety regulations but this number needs to rise immediately.
Vehicles are becoming faster as well as safer. In fact, the recently announced super expressway between Delhi and Jaipur has a claimed travel time between the two cities of 90 minutes. On the existing NH8 or National Highway 8, it takes anywhere close to six hours including stops. But, is India really prepared for it? Agreed there is ABS or Anti-lock Braking System, airbags and other essential safety aids that are seen in most mass market cars. They will also become mandatory in two-wheelers as well as four wheelers soon, however, the areas of improvement are large and here is what the India Road Safety Index about the aforementioned cities suggests.
Broadly one major improvement aspect is the road sense for emergency vehicles which is missing in most cities. Exceptions include Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. In other cities, the aspect of giving way to an ambulance or a fire tender or a police vehicle is missing which entails in delay of proper care to a patient or reaching an affected area. The strong points were also discussed which included reasonable improvement of infrastructure, but cities like Chennai are in a huge need of flyovers and foot over bridges which would result in a smoother flow. The jury for the Road Safety Index included Indrani Malkani, Managing Trustee of V Citizens Action Network (VCAN), Anil Gupta, President and Head of Board Practice & Leadership Consulting for Cornerstone International Group- India and Ashok Datar, Founder Trustee of Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN).
Carmakers are also taking a step forward in making children, in particular, aware about understanding road signs and how to encourage safe driving. Other carmakers are also initiating their steps, for example, Hyundai's Be The Better Guy campaign which makes people aware about breaking traffic rules which can simply be avoided. Other companies such as Zoomcar also encourage in taking a shared mobility solution wherein customers can ask for a passenger vehicle and share the vehicle with other passengers going in the same direction. In addition, the startup tracks the driver's accelerator as well as braking inputs. Cab companies like Ola and Uber are also training its drivers to be safer on the road.
Express Drives' analysis and suggestion
The key area of concern is the basic traffic sense which needs to be inculcated at an early age. In addition to the rising number of vehicles in each city, each of them have their issues that need to be addressed and their strengths as well. The need for awareness of hazards while commuting, road signs, as well as, traffic sense is something that needs to be severely addressed. Licencing authorities should now adhere to stricter methods for issuing of new driving licences as well as the renewal of a driving licence.
According to Vision Impact Institute, a non-profit organisation working towards impaired vision and its hazards while driving, 42 percent of commercial vehicle drivers which also includes Taxis have URE or Uncorrected Refractive Error which leads to 59 percent of road accidents. This is another angle which should also be included in driving licencing programmes in a more detailed way. A simple eye test does not justify a person's ability to simply see on the road. In addition to these factors, the sole aspect of self-preservation needs to come in every road user. This would surely benefit commuters and lead to safer roads in the country.