The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Roads … or death-traps???

The speed jocks that one sees on the roads of the city I live in definitely endanger the lives of other road users, and not a day passes without news of traffic incidents.

Given the comparative speeds, though, I thought India was different, and would, perhaps, have fewer traffic-related accidents.

Consequently, it came as a surprise to know that India has the highest reported traffic deaths in the world. The World Health Organization has, in a recent report, stated that 105,000 people died in road accidents in the country – that is a rate of 300 a day. Furthermore, I read that more than a million Indians sustain injuries annually.

I came across statistics that state that a trauma-related death occurs in India every 1.9 minutes, and that while the country has only 1% of the world’s motor vehicles, it accounts for 6% of the total global deaths through road traffic accidents.

While these numbers appear disproportionately high, they should not come as a total surprise considering the state of the roads, vehicles, and people’s attitudes.

Traffic conditions in most cities are totally chaotic, and one has to drive using one’s wits more than mere skills. It is, often, a case of guessing what the next guy is likely to do on the road.

Roads are pot-holed, are uneven, and not always properly marked. There are several surprises thrown at you, irrespective of whether you are driving on a city street or on one of the highways.

There are very few highways that one can call top-class. One exception is the Mumbai-Pune Expressway that has made a huge difference, even though the scores of Volvo buses that traverse this route daily often tend to intimidate other road users with their speed, and liberal use of the air-horn.

Road sense is pathetic, lane discipline is totally absent, use of indicators is considered to be frivolous, and the concept of right of way is a matter of “might over right”.

The assortment of vehicles on the roads compounds the problem – buses and trucks belching out smoke, zippy little cars, the creaking jalopies of yesteryears, the ubiquitous autorickshaws, the “tempo” that is converted for commuter use, the array of two-wheelers, and, of course, the cyclists. Not to forget the bullock and camel carts that one encounters in different parts of the country.

Add to this the appalling condition of some of vehicles on the roads and the quality of training of the drivers of the vehicles, and you have a major problem.

I am not sure things have certainly changed very much in recent years, and observing the way some people drive makes you wonder how they secured their licenses in the first place.

The use of seat belts has been made mandatory recently in most cities, but I have seen countless drivers flout this rule if they felt they could get away with it. The use of mobile phones while driving attracts a hefty fine in some cities, but this, again, is ignored whenever convenient.

Two-wheeler drivers in many towns avoid using helmets (too cumbersome), and the use of child seats is virtually unknown – most cars do not have belts in the rear seats anyway.

With a large amount of truck traffic moving during the nights, and drink-driving laws not being strictly enforced, it is not surprising to see large numbers of truck carcasses along the highways.

A share of the blame for the alarmingly high rate of accidents must go to pedestrians, too, for there is absolutely no discipline – any part of the road is meant to be crossed, and the use of pedestrian crossings (wherever they exist) is invariably resorted to only if the road dividers (wherever they exist) present too much of a challenge for all expect the nimble type.

Having survived a horrific accident myself, I am, perhaps, more sensitive and alert when on the roads.

But, the numbers speak loud and clear.



August 17, 2009 - Posted by | About this and that | , , , , , , ,

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