Road Safety Week: Mumbaikars who lost family members in road accidents speak up

Jan 14, 2016, 07:45 IST | Apoorva Puranik

Mid way through Road Safety Week, Mumbaikars who lost their family members to a road accidents, wonder what a spot awareness campaign will achieve

With the annual Road Safety Week kicking off officially on Monday, Mumbai’s roads are going to be in sharp focus until January 16 when the campaign folds up.

Siddharth Pandya’s 22-year-old  sister was hit by a speeding vehicle while hailing a rickshaw on Western Express Highway
Siddharth Pandya’s 22-year-old  sister was hit by a speeding vehicle while hailing a rickshaw on Western Express Highway

Although the Mumbai Traffic Police department claims to have registered a dip in the number of fatal accidents in 2015 (drop of 1,300 compared to 2014), statistics have little meaning for those who have lost their loved ones in road accidents.

Atiq Ansari lost his son in a bike accident
Atiq Ansari lost his son in a bike accident

In May 2015, an unidentified vehicle in Goregaon (E) mowed down Archana Pandya, 22. She was hailing a rickshaw on the Western Express Highway when a vehicle hit her and sped off. Her brother Siddharth Pandya, says, “She lay on the road, bleeding for half an hour, with no one coming to help. It was the police who rushed her to hospital after.” Pandya says he made unsuccessful attempts to get possible onlookers to identify the vehicle that hit his sister, but no one came forward.

What we can learn: Help accident victims get justice.

“The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, does not address the crucial issues of rash driving, poor enforcement of laws, shoddy upkeep of roads and vehicle engineering and safety of vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists,” says Piyush Tiwari, founder of Savelife Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit working towards road safety and emergency medical care.

Amit Bhatt (25) succumbed to head injuries after a speeding bike knocked him down, while he was crossing a busy road in Virar in 2014. Jayant Khatri, a friend who was with him, says, “He lost a lot of blood and the time taken to get him to hospital resulted in his death. I tried calling an ambulance by dialling the 108 emergency number but it never arrived. Finally, I called my father, who rushed to the spot in a taxi and we took Amit to hospital. Bystanders were busy beating up the biker who knocked my friend down.”

What we can learn: Civic authorities should rid footpaths of encroachment so that pedestrians can use them instead of walking along motorable roads. A bystander’s first responsibility is to rush the injured to a nearby hospital.

Transport expert Ashok Datar plays devil’s advocate when he says, “It is easy to blame the government or authorities, but we need to exercise caution ourselves,” referring to how we behave, both as pedestrians and motorists.

Kurla resident Atiq Ansari, who lost his son, Maaz, to a bike accident last year, agrees with Datar. Maaz Ansari [20], was riding pillion with a friend. Maaz was not wearing a helmet. Worse, the rider wasn’t carrying a license. The fall from the impact of an accident that occurred when their bike collided with another motorbike, proved fatal when a BEST bus rammed into him as he lay there.

Ansari claims the police did not record the statement of the BEST bus driver or the other biker, neither were police officials present during the postmortem. “Without the cop who is handling the case present, doctors cannot conduct a postmortem, but not a single policeman turned up, delaying the postmortem by a day,” he says.

“My child lost his life due to a variety of reasons, including his lack of caution. I wish I knew he was with someone who threw caution to the winds. I would have stopped him from going. The police were negligent, too. It was never determined whether Maaz was run over by the bus, hit by the rear end of the bus or hit by the colliding biker.”

What we can learn: Follow traffic rules, including the basics like wearing a helmet when on a bike.

On the anvil
Road Safety Week is being observed across the country to campaign for safer roads.

>> Indrani Malkani, member of the Road Safety Advisory Committee, along with the RTO, has launched a Road Safety Audit that will determine patterns in traffic violations by citizens.

>> Students of Cathedral and John Connon School in Fort will be stationed outside strategic areas including Flora Fountain and CST to observe the most frequently broken traffic rules, gather concerns of pedestrians and interact with them about why they don’t follow rules and regulations.

>> The assimilation of this data will help the committee draw up a clear picture of rules that are most routinely flouted, what exactly prevents Mumbaikars from following them and subsequently, what can be done to make them adhere to rules.

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