The horrific car accident at Bandra early last morning that killed two persons and injured an equal number of others was totally senseless and easily avoidable. It is no secret that India has one of the highest road accidents in the world; in 2010, there were close to five lakh road accidents in India, resulting in 1,34,513 deaths compared to four lakh accidents and 80,888 deaths in 2001. One may argue that this is also caused by the increase in population, population density and the steep rise in the number of automobiles over a period of time.
But according to the ministry of roads and surface transport, the incidence of road accidents has more than doubled in India since 2010, even after taking into account the factors listed above. In fact, accident severity (that is, the number of people killed per 100 road accidents) rose from 19.9 in 2001 to 26.9 in 2010. Clearly, it is not the absolute numbers – which is a certainty given the circumstances - but the rate of accidents and their severity that is scary.
So, what gives? One of the flaws in road safety management in Mumbai, or for that matter, in India, is the lack of disincentives for people who break traffic rules. For example, people speeding at 100 kmph in a 40 kmph zone is not a rarity. Riders routinely break the 100 kmph barrier on Mumbai-Pune Expressway where the speed limit is 80 kmph, but you hardly hear of fines or speeding tickets issued. A driver’s brazenness evolves from this lack of enforcement.
What stops, for instance, the traffic police to impose heavy fines on insurance premium renewals for jumping red lights or breaking lanes or going down the wrong way on a one-way street? When the JJ Flyover came up a decade ago, policemen with speed guns were a regular feature. But for several years now, there has been no instance of speed monitoring on the key Mumbai stretch. It is this lack of enforcement that is frustrating, and is often the cause of senseless deaths on the city roads.