When in doubt, blame the road. It’s what usually happens after an accident on India’s highways. Consider some of the things that occurred over the past 48 hours. 29 members of a marriage party were killed and 26 others injured when a speeding truck rammed into a stationary bus at Khalapur on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
In Tamil Nadu, 12 people were killed and 24 injured when a truck in which they were travelling overturned after the driver lost control. In West Bengal, seven people were killed and 11 injured in two accidents. The first occurred when a car collided head on with a speeding truck. In the second accident, in Kolkata, a state-run bus overturned.
Putting aside these current mishaps, let’s take a step back and look at how our country fares in comparison with how things work in the rest of the world. According to studies based on reported data (an important factor), India has over 1.3 lakh deaths by road accidents annually. It is supposedly the worst rate worldwide. In 2008, 13 people died per hour. A year later, it was 14.
It’s easy to blame poor roads for these staggering figures. Yes, they exist. Yes, they are responsible for a large number of these deaths. Yes, we have much to do in terms of planning and execution of road projects. But no, the roads alone cannot be blamed.
What yesterday’s accident threw into sharp relief is the need for awareness among those who drive on the highway. Where to stop a vehicle, when to stop it, what protocol to follow in the event of a technical failure — these are things drivers need to understand better. Until that happens, we will continue to blame poor roads and divine acts. Until then, 1.3 lakh of our people will continue to die.