By Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma
Around 44,000 young people (under 25 years of age) became victims of unsafe roads in our country last year. Tomorrow, on November 18, as we observe the sombre occasion of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, we have to remember those who lost their lives in road accidents and take a pledge to minimise these. Ironically, a majority of road accidents are preventable.
The United Nations will mark the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims—held on third Sunday of November every year. This year’s slogan is ‘Roads Have Stories’. Roads are not just physical connections from point A to point B. They are also the final resting places of the lives cut short. They tell stories, some of them tragic. India is a signatory to Brasilia Declaration (November 2015) and is committed in reducing the number of accidents and fatalities by 50% by 2020.
Time is less, and how can we approach this target should be mulled.
Being an elected representative from Delhi, it is saddening to know that, with respect to the number of fatalities, Delhi recorded the highest number of deaths in 2017 among cities. It is followed by Chennai and Jaipur, as per the report Road Accidents in India 2017 by the ministry of road transport and highways. This report presents a grim picture on the state of our road safety.
w Across the country, a total of 4,64,910 road accidents took place, taking 1,47,913 lives and causing injuries to 4,70,975 persons in 2017. Thus, on an average, 405 deaths took place every day or 17 deaths every hour.
Road accident severity, measured by the number of persons killed per 100 accidents, saw an increase of 0.4 percentage points in 2017 over the previous year. Two-wheelers accounted for the highest share (33.9%) in total accidents and fatalities (29.8%) in 2017. In terms of road-user categories, the share of two-wheeler riders in total fatality has also been the highest (33%) in 2017.
Most startling among all the facts is that there has been a 33.1% increase over previous year where pedestrians have been hit—pedestrians are also the most vulnerable among all the road users.
The Lok Sabha showed determination and passed the much-needed Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2017, in April 2017. Had the Rajya Sabha shown this sensitivity towards road accidents, many persons would have been alive today. In short, those opposing the Bill are being funded by vested interests and they have no logical rhyme or reason whatsoever when the question of life and death is involved. In a survey by Consumer Voice, a civil society organisation, 97% of consumers feel the Bill deserves support from all parties and it is an important step towards reducing road crash deaths. Nitin Gadkari, the road transport and highways minister, has acknowledged the immediate need for comprehensive legislation on road safety that aligns with global best practices.
Also, in 2016 and 2017, on an average, 82% of the people involved in accidents had a valid driving licence. This means that something is really wrong as far as the state of our licensing system is concerned.
My father cannot be brought back to life, but we can try to minimise the number of people having the same fate as my father. Will those in power ensure that this important piece of legislation is cleared without any delay? We still follow the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and three decades have passed by.
The author is a Lok Sabha MP. His father, the late Sahib Singh Verma, ex-CM of Delhi, died in a road accident on June 30, 2007. Views are personal