Following Gopinath Munde’s death in a road accident, Dr P S Pasricha, former state DGP and a PhD in traffic management, tells us that making the country’s roads safer requires a host of measures from all the stakeholders
It is a matter of shame for the country, when it comes to following traffic rules. Motorists do everything wrong — from jumping signals, overtaking wrongly, lane cutting, and flouting all rules with impunity. With limited staff, the enforcement is only on paper.
India records a loss of 1.5 lakh lives annually due to road accidents, whereas the worldwide figure is 12 lakh. At a time when the number of vehicles is not as high in India as compared to other countries, this figure is no matter of pride. Still, we don’t have a dedicated Road Safety Cell under the Ministry of Road Transport.
It is not just drivers’ fault, as the traffic system is inadequate. For instance, the signage on highways is written in different languages, including the state language. In many states, only local language is mentioned and at high speeds it is difficult to understand it. There is a need to make dispersal of information easy.
The new government should press following of traffic rules and laws more stringently. For instance, wearing safety belts inside cars should be mandatory for everyone, including children, irrespective of where they are seated.
Many drivers lack basic knowledge of traffic rules, and they should be taught.
There is little focus on safety and design of roads, road geometry and use of materials. There have been cases where speed breakers are constructed overnight without proper measurement. Even in cities like Mumbai, the road condition is poor, manholes and drainage caps are haphazardly places, which causes problems.
Heavy vehicles overload, and manufacturers should take responsibility and build quality vehicles. Fines and punishments should be made stricter. The fines levied are still those decided in 1989, when the act was introduced. Motorists are not bothered and there are cases where even children of affluent families do not bother paying a small amount as fine. Licences of offenders should be cancelled. Presently, a person can take multiple driving licences from different states, as there is no single national database. There is a need for everyone to contribute. It cannot remain a ‘free for all’ situation.
(As told to Shashank Rao)